From Pandita to Amarjit: Big hug before the game and then shoulder to shoulder

Ishan Pandita is looking forward to playing against ex-teammate Amarjit Singh in the upcoming season of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL). Last season both players were team-mates at FC Goa. While forward Pandita has joined Jamshedpur FC under Owen Coyle ahead of the 2021-22 Hero ISL, midfielder Amarjit has joined Manuel ‘Manalo’ Diaz’s SC East Bengal on loan. Both players go head-to-head on November 21 at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Goa in what will be their teams’ season opener.

Check out the fixtures for first 11 rounds here.

“The first match of the season is always going to be exciting. Everyone is ready to get on the field and kick-start in a positive way. Amarjit is going to be there as well so it will be nice to lock horns with an ex-teammate. He is a fantastic player so it will be good,” Pandita told in a club interaction with the Hero ISL recently. 

“Hug before the game [for Amarjit] and then [Jamshedpur FC go] shoulder to shoulder [against SC East Bengal].”

Pandita was also keen on playing against his former team. Jamshedpur FC are playing the Gaurs on November 26 at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim, the first of a two-game match-up in the league stage. “Personally, it will be a bit special playing against FC Goa. A team that I know inside out. A team that I have moved on from now. So those kinds of games are always a bit spicy, I can say,” he said.

Amarjit, in his turn, was also relishing the prospect of playing against Pandita, whose four goals as a substitute played a big role in the Gaurs reaching their sixth semi-final last season. “Ishan was our striker at FC Goa. He scored crucial goals at the last minute in crucial matches. He helped FC Goa reach the semi-finals. His contribution was great. I am ready for the encounter.

“I have spent two years at Jamshedpur FC, it was like home to me. Owen Coyle is a great human being, great coach. He is very supportive. I am excited to play against them,” Amarjit, who joined FC Goa from Jamshedpur FC during the 2020-21 January Transfer Window, said.    

“I think this will be a fiery encounter. This is going to be Ishan’s first game for Jamshedpur FC. I think there will be healthy rivalry,” Amarjit went on to add.

Both players are in search of plenty of game time, which appears to be the main reason behind their leaving FC Goa and joining new camps. Pandita makes no bones in regard to why he chose to join Jamshedpur FC. “I think the intention from the management and from the club [was appealing to him]. And the coach had a big role in my moving there. And the type of football Jamshedpur plays impacted my decision to move to the club a lot. I am just excited. I am ready to get a lot of minutes under my belt. We have made some fantastic signings this season, so it’s going to be a top season,” he said.

Amarjit echoes the same sentiments. “Playing for SC East Bengal is a good opportunity. For the last two years, I have been struggling for game time, which is very important for a player. So, I expect things to change at the Red and Gold Brigade. Then we all know what SC East Bengal fans are like. So, it’s going to be a great experience under a new head coach. Can’t wait for the season to begin,” he said.

However, the 20-year-old midfielder expressed his disappointment that there won’t be fans in the stadium again when they play their Kolkata rivals ATK Mohun Bagan on November 27. This will be the first time in his career that he will be featuring in the historic derby. “Unfortunately, there won’t be fans in the stadium. It would have been a lot of fun with them around. It’s also a lot of pressure with them shouting at the top of their voices. But then every profession has pressure. It will be an exciting game. All fans in Kolkata will be watching the game. In fact, a lot of people in the country and in the world. As a player I am really looking forward to that game. This will be my first opportunity to feature in a Kolkata derby. I have only heard great things about this match-up,” he said.        

Finally, both players left an encouraging message for their fans. “Sometimes we don’t get desired results but SC East Bengal fans are always supportive through thick and thin. This is the best thing about SC East Bengal. I am thankful to fans for welcoming me with open arms. I hope I live up to their expectations,” said Amarjit.

23-year-old Pandita, meanwhile, said: “We are going to put our hearts on the field to defend this club. And it’s going to be an exciting season. We have made some amazing signings. This is going to be a season to look out for from a JFC point of view.”

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