Head HR, Bharti Airtel Ltd(Karnataka) Mr Prince Edison with the winners of Airtel Rising Stars, Bangalore Vishal Pathi, Ishan Pandita, Prashanth and Goalkeeper Pranab Saha

Ishan Pandita,the 17-year-old Bengalurean, who took a sabbatical from studies to pursue a professional football career in Spain in 2014, is on the cusp of global glory.

Ishan is the first Indian to be part of the Under-18 team of UD Almeria, which was relegated from the Spanish Primera Liga to the second division last season. The talented striker was noticed by a scout last year during his fruitful stint with Alcobendas CF in Madrid, a feeder club for Spanish powerhouse Atlético Madrid.

Due to Fifa’s protection-of-minors clause, which states that international transfers of non-European players are permitted only if they are aged 18 or more, Ishan will be able to sign an official contract with Almeria in May 2016. “Getting a call from Almeria remains one of my most cherished moments until now,” Ishan reveals.

Almeria’s academy manager Agustin Sanchez was all praise for Ishan. “It’s for the first time we have accepted an Indian player into our club. At first, we had our doubts; so we asked others for their opinion about Ishan before accepting him. We liked (that) he has adapted well to Spanish football,” he said.

Having begun playing football at six, Ishan relocated from the Philippines to Bengaluru in 2009 and was one of The International School Bangalore’s top footballers, eventually being named the school team captain. He turned out for Students Union and Bangalore Yellows in the BDFA’s ‘A’ Division and ‘C’ Division state football leagues, respectively.

In 2013, Ishan got a major break after his performance in the Gothia Cup in Sweden caught the eye of officials of local club IF Bromficials of local club IF Brommapojkarna, who invited him for trials for their U-17 squad. The following year, he signed up to join Intersoccer Madrid football academy in Spain, which helped him secure a berth in Alcobendas CF.

“At Almeria, it’s a completely different ball game, compared with Indian standards. The technical abilities of players are a lot better and the Spanish coaches are very knowledgeable. Each training session has a complete set of coaching staff, including doctors and a physio,” said Ishan, who is also pursuing his Cambridge A-Level education simultaneously.