Carlos Kaiser: The Greatest Footballer Never To Play Football

The word "fraud" is used very commonly in football by plenty of folk on social media these days. One might call the opposition team manager or a player a "fraud"- if they feel as though they have deceived others.

But no matter who is given the tag in the world of football, whether it be a Pep Guardiola or a Mesut Ozil, no-one epitomises the term "fraud" more than Carlos Henrique Raposo - better known as 'Carlos Kaiser'.

A genuine conman, he couldn't play football to save his life but managed a 26-year career in the game, moving from club to club and living his life as though he was a world star.

It's a story like no other, and courtesy of We Are Buzzers, his remarkable ventures have been chronicled in an in-depth film.

SPORTbible got in touch with Director Louis Myles, who shared his thoughts on how the film all about came about, details of just how Kaiser managed the ultimate blag, interviewing Zico and Carlos Alberto, and their interactions with the man himself.

How did you first come to learn about Carlos Kaiser and how did you come to make the decision of making a film about his story?

It all came through a meeting at a pub with Football Manager's Dr Tom Markham. He invited me along to meet his mate Rob Fullam who had found the story posted on a reddit forum. It was unbelievable, hearing a story about this conman who had blagged a 26-year football career - in the hardest place in the world to do so, at probably the hardest time - the story spans the golden generation of Brazilian football 70's right through to the '02 World Cup winning team. And Kaiser couldn't play football to save his life.

Rob and Tom said that they wanted to make a movie on it, so we threw everything we had into doing so. About a month later we'd raised enough money to get to Rio with a crew to try and find Kaiser. We were either going to come back with the start of a movie, or it would have been the most expensive holiday ever. Luckily it was the former!

How long was the process of putting the film together from pre-production to the final product?

About two-and-a-half years. We spent about 18 months filming - we had no foresight into what we were going to get, which meant that the story unravelled in front of our eyes. That was a bit of a job, as Kaiser was giving us the run around so we had to try and decipher what was true and what wasn't - to be honest we still don't 100 per cent know one way or the other on some of it.

We had to go into the sinews of Rio to uncover everything - interviewing everyone from the likes of Carlos Alberto, Zico, Bebeto to nightclub owners, strippers, transgender carioca funk singers and the mafia. Once we had our story we then set about bringing it to life with drama shoots.

Image: PA
Image: PA

What was Kaiser's route into the game and how was he able to blag his way through a career for so long?

As Kaiser would tell you, his 'reign' began in 1983 when he got compared to Renato Gaucho - at the time Brazil's most famous player. Renato was a top player for Gremio, and pretty much single-handedly won the Copa Libertadores for them. He was an incredible player - who was a bit ahead of his time as he was strong, fit and fast - remember this is an era when Brazil had a lot of creative artists like Zico and Socrates.

Kaiser started pretending to be Renato, as they looked alike. That made him a hit with the ladies and Kaiser pretty much became a mini-celebrity by impersonating somebody else. Renato used to come to Rio when he was at national team training. He started hearing all these stories about this guy pretending to be him, sleeping with women and making money out of his name.

Weirdly, when they met, they got on like a house on fire and became great mates. After that, Kaiser's social network suddenly expanded to the best players in Brazil. But here in lies the beauty of the story - we're not 100% sure ourselves - he's such an agile operator that he would convince us of definite dates and times. We'd then research it, and come to the conclusion that it was unlikely to have happened.

What is certain, is that he ended up at many, many clubs and that he would sometimes be at three or four clubs in a year - moving around to avoid being caught.

What incredible stories were you able to find out about in producing this film?

Kaiser's most famous story involved when he was at Bangu, a small club on the west zone of Rio. The club was owned by a mafia boss called Castor de Andrade. He was not someone to mess with. When he finally got arrested in 1994, it turned out the president of Brazil was on his payroll, and there were huge links with the Cali cartel.

Kaiser and Castor had become friends during Kaiser's time at Bangu... but, as usual, Kaiser would do anything to get the contract and then even more to never step onto the pitch, so he used to pretend to be injured.

There were no MRI scans back in the day, so it was his word against the medical department. And Kaiser always had the upper hand as he would organise the parties for the players, so they'd all back him up.

Image: We Are Buzzers
Image: We Are Buzzers

Whilst at Bangu, Kaiser paid off the Bangu ball-boys to get the supporters to sing his name during matches in order to give the impression that he was a star and the fans loved him.

Anyway, one evening, Castor had had enough of not seeing his star striker play, so he ordered the coach - Moises - to get him on the pitch for the next game the following day. Moises spent a few hours trying to track Kaiser down, and eventually found him in a nightclub at 4am.

Kaiser was angry that he would be made to play whilst being 'injured', but Moises convinced him that he would be on the bench, but he would never actually get onto the pitch. Kaiser rocked up a few hours later at the Maça Bonito for the game against Coritiba a bit worse for wear, and duly got changed.

However Bangu went 2-0 down after about 8 minutes so Castor got on the walkie-talkie and demanded that Kaiser was substituted on. Kaiser started warming up - upset and anxious that he was about to get found out... but as he was stretching he overheard the fans giving him dogs abuse. With a bit of quick thinking, he climbed over the fence and started a fight with the fans, and got himself sent off the pitch so he didn't have to play.

Image: We Are Buzzers
Image: We Are Buzzers

Castor was naturally furious at half time, but in a moment of ingenuity, Kaiser started talking first and claimed that the fans were calling him a drug baron and a murderer, so he had to go and defend his honour. Castor thought about it, and then extended Kaisers contract on the spot.

Tell us a bit about the access you were able to get for the documentary?

Amazing access. We interviewed pretty much everyone from Zico through to the chief of police of Rio de Janeiro. Everybody knows Kaiser, and on more than one occasion he was called the King of Rio. Everybody had something to say about him.

Having spent time with him, what was the impression you got from Carlos?

We're now good friends - but it's been a complicated process. He is a conman, and was trying to convince us of things that really didn't happen and avoid things that did. The documentary is incredibly entertaining and reflects the process of our journey to get to the bottom of the truth. I'd have to say, that's an incredibly hard thing to do - when everybody has a different story to tell of the same event.

Image: We Are Buzzers
Image: We Are Buzzers

So the film is about trying to find the trick of his con, and shows us a fascinating look into the psychology of a conman. What I will say is that we could not find anyone with a bad word to say about him. Everybody loved him, even the ones who got screwed over by him.

What is he up to these days?

It's only natural for a man who has claimed he slept with over 1000 women to now be a personal trainer for female bodybuilders. He does not train men.

Do you think because of his longevity, Carlos is a bigger and better footballing fraud than Ali Dia?

Ali Dia had the benefit of being half decent, and actually got professional contracts at lower league and top non-league clubs. Plus he did it for about 20 minutes. Kaiser did this for over 20 years.

We did a psychological profile of him with Dr Kevin Dutton of Oxford University - he specialises in cons. Kevin says that Kaiser is up there with the best conmen of all time, and the scale of what he did is up there with Frank Abignale Jr (Catch Me if You Can).

How satisfied are you with the finished product and the feedback you've received thus far?

Anyone in this field will tell you that there are things that they would change, and there will be people who watch it that will find areas that they don't like. That's the same with any film, but it's genuinely presented how we found it.

This isn't a film whereby we knew the story going into it - like other brilliant sports docs like Senna and Bobby Robson (and I love those films) - so you can't plan what you need or what you want to say. It's a real journey into the unknown for everyone, including the viewer (most of whom won't have heard of Kaiser before).

And for that reason I wouldn't change a thing. The reaction has been fantastic - we premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in April, and we received great reviews, especially from Peter Bradshaw at the Guardian who gave it 4 stars. He is a fantastic and hugely well respected reviewer - so to get such a seal of approval from him is more than we could ever have hoped for.

Kaiser! is out in UK cinemas from July 26. Ticket details here.

Josh Lawless

Josh is a writer who specialises in football and wrestling. He has been published by Curzon Ashton FC, Late Tackle, Manchester City FC, The Mirror, Read Man City and Manchester Evening News. He provides coverage of professional wrestling and has interviewed some of the biggest names in the field - including the first UK interview with The Hardy Boyz after their return to WWE. He loves a Meatball Marinara from Subway on a Friday.

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