Santino Quaranta is coming out of retirement to play in, of all places, India.
The longtime D.C. United and MLS midfielder, who retired last month at age 27 after his contract wasn’t renewed, told the Insider he has signed to play in Premier League Soccer, a new, six-team circuit in West Bengal state that has inked former global stars Fabio Cannavaro, Hernan Crespo, Robbie Fowler, Robert Pires and J.J. Okocha.
The league launches next month, with each club playing 10 matches. Players will learn their club assignments through an auction. The season will conclude with playoffs in April.
“I was very happy not playing anymore and had no ambitions to play at all — none,” Quaranta said. “But then [former teammate] Jaime Moreno told me about this opportunity and I found out the organizers are serious about it, putting a lot of money into it, and that gave it some meaning.”
Quaranta said he would have had to play two or three MLS seasons to earn as much as he'll make during the short Indian calendar. (His 2011 salary with United was about $115,000.) The elite players in the Indian league will receive a base salary of $600,000.
The league’s head coaches will include former United star Marco Etcheverry, England’s John Barnes and Peter Reid, and 2011 Vancouver Whitecaps boss Teitur Thodarson.
Soccer is a big spectator sport in India but has failed to take root as a participatory sport, despite the country’s 1.2 billion population. India’s national team has never participated in the World Cup, although it did qualify for the 1950 tournament before withdrawing for various reasons. It advanced to the Asian Cup three times, with the only two victories coming in 1964 in Israel, good enough for second place in the four-nation finals.
Cricket and field hockey are the most popular sports in India.
Since retiring, Quaranta has focused his energy on his youth soccer academy in Baltimore.
“With the money they’ve got in this league, a lot of guys are unretiring,” he said. “It’s good money and it’s a life experience I couldn’t turn down. I don’t know where’s it's going to go, but how can you say no to seeing a new part of the world and playing with Cannavaro and some of these guys?”