Imagine a man who, in the golden era of Brazilian football, makes a two-decade professional career with some of the country’s biggest clubs without ever stepping on the pitch; a man who fooled and charmed in equal measure to bag himself the glamorous life of a professional player without any of the responsibilities.
It sounds barely credible. If you presented it as a fictional script, you would be laughed out of town. But a brand-new documentary, ‘Kaiser: The Greatest Footballer Never to Play Football’, tells the story of Carlos Henrique Raposo, or Kaiser to his mates, football’s biggest conman, who managed all this and more.
It is a fantastical tale of deceit and hedonism, deception and danger, and, as director Louis Myles told GiveMeSport, “We couldn’t believe that no-one had tried to do this story before.” In the film, Brazil’s 1970 World Cup-winning captain Carlos Alberto Torres describes Kaiser as “a one-off”, and it is difficult to argue.
In 1980s Rio de Janeiro, to be a footballer playing for the likes of Flamengo, Botafogo, Vasco Da Gama or Fluminense, the city’s four big clubs, was the pinnacle of cool, bringing fame, fortune and the lifestyle to go with it. Kaiser knew he wanted to be part of it, but there was one hitch; he was terrible at football.
Instead, Myles explains, he tricked his way into the game with pure, bare-faced nerve. “[Renato Gaucho] was one of the star players of the eighties, if you speak to Brazilians, they put him up there with Zico… He was a superstar in Brazil, he was a very good-looking man, he was on the front pages and still is. He’s like an 80s Brazilian Beckham.
“One of Kaiser’s entries into the world of professional football was that he pretended to be him. A younger version of Kaiser and Renato looked pretty alike.”
“He would get free entry to clubs,” Myles continues “he would eat for free, he would get with countless women, based on the fact that he was Renato. Eventually, the two met and surprisingly became friends and that’s where Kaiser really got access to these huge names of Brazilian football. They became like brothers really and would always party together and go on holidays.”
From there, Myles tells us, “He became like a players’ pet, running errands and stuff. But instead of money, he wanted entry into football clubs, so he started getting trials and hanging around these clubs and he would con some of them into giving him contracts.”
Kaiser would be presented to directors at some of the most prestigious sides by the biggest names around; “Bebeto basically took him to Flamengo and told Carlos Alberto Torres he had to train”, Myles recalls. He would then be given a contract and, in the first training session, get a mysterious muscle injury just before the ball work was about to begin.
This ruse, owing to his wit and brazen attitude, was enough to take him around the world, playing (or lying on the treatment table) for clubs in Europe, the Gulf, Mexico and Argentina.
That ability to embellish tales, the film’s director says, was a challenge when they first embarked upon their missions to Rio. “The first three days [of filming], we weren’t sure what was true and what wasn’t. On the first day, we were in the gym – he’s a personal trainer – and he was with one woman in the morning and one in the afternoon. Only at the end of the day did we discover that he was engaged to them both and they didn’t know each other.
“You’re basically going into a contract with a conman,” Myles emphasises. “He would tell you everything as if it was fact, but you’d know that certain things didn’t happen, or he was trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
“Then we met Carlos Alberto Torres, who said, ‘Yeah, this is an incredible story and he was at Botafogo and Flamengo with me and I permitted him to be there.’ That changes the game a little bit, the scorer of the greatest ever World Cup goal telling you that he had him as part of his teams.”
Eventually, the crew started to get to the bottom of what really happened, and that is what makes this film truly captivating. Contained within it, there are many enthralling, barely believable tales, but there is one that Myles feels truly sums Kaiser up.
In the early 90s, he was stringing along a club called Bangu, a small but traditional outfit from the West Zone of Rio that, at the time, was financed and run by one of Brazil’s biggest mafia bosses, Castor De Andrade.
“Kaiser rocked up there and showed that he had papers from [French club] Ajaccio, got a contract and then did his usual thing of faking injury not to play. But at the same time, he’d become best mates with Castor de Andrade, the mafia boss.”
Eventually, de Andrade grew tired of Kaiser’s excuses and before one game demanded that Moises, the manager, put him on the pitch. Moises spent hours on the phone trying to track down his itinerant centre-forward, eventually finding him in a nightclub at 4 am to tell him that he would be in the squad the next day.
“They go 2-0 down after 10 minutes,” Myles recounts, “Castor gets upset and gets on the walkie-talkie to tell Moises that Kaiser has to come on. He starts warming up and he’s sweating and wondering what to do. But as he’s running past the supporters, who are giving him dog’s abuse, he climbs over the fence and starts a fight with a fan. It turns into this big mass brawl and he gets himself sent off before he ever has to come on the pitch.
“He goes back into the dressing room at half time and all the players are saying he’s going to get himself shot. But Kaiser tells Castor that he is like a second father to him and these people were calling him a drug trafficker and a criminal and a murderer.”
Miraculously, the ploy worked and instead of a bullet, Kaiser received a new six-month contract and doubled his wages. “He was”, as the documentary maker says, “a real chancer.”
The film is, in equal measure, bizarre, side-splittingly funny and profoundly sombre; a fascinating story of a man who spent so long deceiving others that perhaps the only person he was really fooling was himself.
Kaiser! is available now to buy and rent in UK & Ireland from all major retailers including Amazon, iTunes and Sky Store