Extra Time with Leeza Mangaldas: A romance fueled by football
Follow pitch-side reporter Leeza Mangaldas as she takes you behind the scenes this Hero ISL season. New posts every week exclusively on indiansuperleague.com. Connect with Leeza on Instagram or Twitter at @leezamangaldas.
Meet Jui and Somnath Nath, fans who met, fell in love, and proposed at ATK matches
Mr and Mrs Somnath and Jui Nath didn’t even know each other back in 2015 when they both happened to attend ATK’s first home game of the Hero ISL Season 2. When they each set off for the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan on that October evening, neither could have imagined they’d end up meeting their future spouse in the stands. It was the game that would change everything.
ATK, then the defending champions, were up against Kerala Blasters FC and ended up winning the match 2-1. As the full-time whistle blew, Jui said she noticed a man she had never seen before, celebrating ATK’s victory with exceptional exuberance.
"He was so thrilled, you could just see the joy in his eyes, he couldn’t contain himself," she laughs. "He even took his shirt off like the players sometimes do in celebration, and I thought to myself, who is this man who seems even more passionate about ATK than me?” Jui recollects fondly. To add context, Jui was a founding member of ATK’s official fan club, and she considers herself as one of the club's most ardent supporters.
Their shared passion for ATK would go on to become the cornerstone of their love story. "I had never ever met a girl so crazy about football," Somnath confesses. "She knew everything about every player, she remembered the details of every single result! I was so intrigued," he reminisces.
After this initial chance encounter, they were both secretly a little more excited than usual to attend ATK’s subsequent home fixtures— each match became an opportunity to not only to see their favourite team in action, but also to see each other. As a result, a strong affinity for one another blossomed over the course of the season and spilt over into the next. It was a romance fueled by football.
On the 10th of December, 2016, at the ATK vs Mumbai City FC semi-final of Season 3, Somnath proposed. It was an action-packed match which ended 3-2 in favour of the hosts. Jui’s eyes light up as she recalls the game. "We were leading by a goal and then Diego Forlan got a red card around the 75th minute, and the stadium went ballistic! But then, something even more unexpected happened."
Somnath piped up, laughing. "I had been looking for the right moment, and I knew this was it. So I asked her in the middle of all the action, 'Will you marry me?' and she said, 'We’ll see, but where’s the ring?'" The ring would make an appearance a year later— at another game of course.
Much to Somnath and Jui’s delight, ATK were crowned the champions of Season 3. But shortly after, Somnath had to move to Hyderabad for work. Despite the distance, their relationship and their love for their team only grew.
As Season 4 commenced, Somnath flew up to Kolkata to attend the ATK vs Delhi Dynamos FC game with Jui on the 23rd of December, 2017. It wasn’t the greatest of seasons for ATK, but the truest fans support their team through thick and thin, and for the couple, it became a season they’ll never forget. It was during this match, at half-time, that Somnath got down on one knee, and this time, he had a ring in his hands.
"It was 0-0 at half-time, and I was hoping we would take the lead. But I thought it’s best I propose at halftime instead of waiting for the end of the match, so she’s in good spirits, just in case the result doesn’t end up in our favour," Somnath explained.
"Much to our delight, however, ATK ended up winning 1-0 thanks to Robbie Keane who scored his first ever Hero ISL goal in that match. And of course, best of all, Jui said yes," revealed Somnath, taking a stroll down memory lane.
"It was such a sweet moment," Jui agreed. "Somnath was literally on one knee presenting me with a ring in front of thousands of people, as we were watching our favourite team live. It couldn’t have been more perfect."
Their wedding took place in Kolkata a month later, on 21st January 2018. Now officially Mrs Nath, Jui, too, was going to have to leave their home city and move to Hyderabad with Somnath. But what about their beloved ATK?
For their honeymoon, instead of planning a trip elsewhere, they decided they would celebrate by spending an extra week in Kolkata to catch the ATK vs Jamshedpur match on the 28th of the same month.
Because of the travel required of Somnath because of his job, the couple now lives in Pondicherry. But this season too, they made a special trip to Kolkata to catch ATK’s first home game, and, since Tamil Nadu is their new base, they look forward to attending ATK's away fixture to Chennaiyin FC on the 2nd of December.
"Regardless of where we live, we will always do whatever it takes to come out to support our team as much as possible," they shared. "We have so much love in our hearts for football and for ATK - it isn’t just a pastime for us, it’s a part of who we are."