"I'm Ishan Pandita. I am a professional footballer playing for FC Goa. I play as a striker and I represent the Indian National Team.
As an athlete and the path we've taken as footballers, as professional athletes, it's normal for us to hear these things. People will always criticise you and have their own opinion, at the end of the day, you just have to keep your mouth shut, keep your ears closed, and do your own thing. I knew that if I stayed in Spain, and I took that experience, and I learned as a player and a person, it would help me grow. And now it's time for me to try helping Indian football when I get the opportunity.
The journey... it all started in the Philippines. I grew up there as a kid and I was...
I was enrolled into a British school. So you know how England is with football and their culture. So I guess that's where I got that love for the game from really. And I just took it from there. And it's cool.
So I grew up in the Philippines, and I played lots of football growing up there, and schools and little clubs here and there. And then there was an opportunity to go to Sweden in the Gothia Cup, which is, if I'm not wrong, the world's biggest youth tournament, around that, something like that. And I had the opportunity to participate there. And I was, I did well, and I was lucky enough to catch the eye of one of the Swedish clubs there, called IF Brommapojkarna, very complicated name, but they were a little bit interested.
And they said, "Come over and have a trial for a week or two and see how things go." So that's where the whole Sweden thing came from. Spain happened the year after that, because I decided not to not to stay in Sweden, only because my dad was a bit concerned about, let's say my well being, because I was still young. And he was a bit concerned about me living alone. And we ended up taking Spain.
I think my experiences in Spain is what defines me now as a person and as a player. This experience I had there playing football there at the youth level, and at the club level, when I got a little bit older, was fantastic.
Everything I learned was from the years I was in Spain. So those four or five years I was there, the games I played, the trainings I had, the experiences, the people, and players I played with, was what really helped me, and built me into what I am now.
Obviously, it's a very humbling and, and blessed feeling to represent your country. And when you put that jersey on, it's a different sensation, it's a different, it's a different feeling. And every time you step on that field, when you have that jersey on, you just want to give that little bit extra. Because you're not just representing one club, you're representing the whole nation, 1.3-1.4-odd billion people. So it's a lot of expectation. And I'm just happy that I was given the chance with the amount of time I had this season with Goa. So I was happy.
And, as I said, there's a lot more, a lot of work to do, but we're going the right way.
If you asked me at the beginning of the season, if I played 100-odd minutes, and I'd get a call up I would not believe you at all. But in those 100-odd minutes, I was able to deliver. So that's what really helped me I knew after I scored that third goal that I was probably in contention. And after that fourth one against Chennaiyin, I kind of knew that maybe I have a good chance now.
My thinking will always be the same if I play five minutes, or I'll play 15 minutes. Or if I even play one minute, I'm always on the field to do my best. I will put in everything I have and try to help the team as much as I can. This season things clicked and I'm very happy and blessed for that. And I was just happy to help the team and put in some good performances with the limited time that I got.
(At the ACL) we're not just representing Goa, we're representing the whole nation. It's a big deal for everyone. And yeah, we're lucky enough to be given this opportunity. And now we got to perform and show the world and show Asia that India is here, we can play football. So we're excited honestly. And we're just ready to give our best and hopefully get good results on the field and in good performances.
I can't get into what's the best-case scenario with points and wins and draws and losses but as a team, we go into every game looking for three points always. And we'll be doing the same now.
Yes, we are playing against some very big opponents. But at the end of the day, it's just a game, it's 11 versus 11. And we'll be putting our best on the field and hoping that things go our way."