When thinking of the many geniuses in football who have graced us with their presence over the years, I bet the following names come to mind:
- Diego Maradona
- Lionel Messi
- Ronaldo (the Brazilian)
- Alfredo Di Stefano
- George Best
- Cristiano Ronaldo
You could make a case for any of these players being the greatest of all time – whether it be for their goalscoring prowess, passing ability, skill, or overall technique. All of these players won a haul of individual and collective trophies, had glittering careers, and were the subject of some of the most expensive transfers of all time. They also were, and still are, beloved icons in their respective nations and will always be remembered as tremendous ambassadors of the sport.
But none of these players came even remotely close to matching the genius of one man – Carlos Kaiser.
Kaiser, who was born Carlos Henrique Raposo, played for ten clubs during his career – big clubs, as well. He had spells at Brazilian giants Flamengo, Fluminense FC, Bangu Atlético Clube, and Club Puebla, to name just a few. His long and storied career lasted an impressive 13 years – which is damn remarkable for any player.
There was just one problem, though, Kaiser never actually played a single game of football in his entire career.
Yes, you read that right.
Carlos Kaiser spent, and was paid for, 13 years of a career he didn’t even participate in. His life as a professional footballer was a complete and utter sham – and, in order to pull it off, Kaiser performed a tactical masterclass that would leave any manager green with envy.
So, how did he do it? How did he weave his way through ten different clubs without detection? Are people in football that stupid?
Well, yes, and no. Kaiser was a gifted athlete with pace, strength and endurance. He was certainly tall enough and powerful enough to pass for a professional striker – so he at least looked the part. Getting a trial at a club came easily enough, but the real complexity of Carlos’s plan came afterward.
Kaiser would make sure to get acquainted with local sports reporters immediately after his trials (which he almost always passed) and use his charm to persuade them into writing generous features on him and his ‘ability’. He would then showcase his athletic gifts in front of the coaches – showing off his pace and athleticism during drills. His ‘roadrunner’ approach to training would impress coaches, who would then report to the manager about his talents. The manager would then turn Kaiser’s trials into a full-on contract offering. Carlos would then, of course, accept the offer.
However, actually playing football was a bridge too far for him. After all, what kind of monster would expect a professional footballer to…I don’t know…play a game once in a while? I’m surprised Carlos didn’t contact Human Rights Watch after being given that ridiculous demand.
Carlos, the genius that he was, would then formulate the next part of his plan – he would feign injury to get out of playing. He would point to his legs and say he had picked up a muscle injury after ”training too hard” and that he would need a least a few weeks’ rest to heal up. The manager would always comply – understanding that a big part of Kaiser’s ”game” was his pace – and, without it, his playing would be greatly affected. Therefore, the team would suffer. It’s all about the team, right?
This charade would go on and on throughout the clubs that he ‘played’ for. During his ‘rehab’, Kaiser would deliberately let himself go – piling on weight and neglecting his exercise regimen. Using his metabolism to his advantage, he would then quickly shed the weight and return to training substantially fitter than when his manager last saw him. When the manager saw his progress, he would always be astounded at the speed in which Kaiser had ‘healed’. When it came time to put his name in the starting XI, Kaiser would implement his short-term contracts to bail out of the club, almost akin to a paratrooper diving out of a ready-to-explode aircraft.
“I just didn’t want to play. It’s everybody else’s problem if they want me to be a footballer. Not even Jesus pleased everybody. Why would I?”Carlos Kaiser
It was rinse and repeat. Kaiser would implement this plan at each of the ten clubs he played for, never missing a paycheque.
He did once become close to being exposed, however. During his time at Botafogo in 1981, Carlos staged a telephone conversation on his cell-phone within earshot of his fellow teammates and coaches. He would often do this to evoke the impression he was in high demand and was always talking with other clubs who could potentially pay him more. Carlos called upon his language skills to speak in English in front of his mostly-Portuguese speaking colleagues. However, a coach (who also spoke English) overheard the ‘conversation’ and realised the phone call merely consisted of a string of English gibberish whose words made no sense together in a sentence. When the coach confronted him, he realised that Kaiser’s phone was a toy and was not functional whatsoever.
What happened afterwards is not known – somehow, Carlos got away with it.
Carlos found himself at Flamengo next. Flamengo are a big, big club in Brazil. They’ve won the Brazilian league 7 times and recently faced Liverpool in the FIFA Club-World Cup competition. They’re almost like the Brazilian Manchester United. However, Carlos (like the champion he was) didn’t let the club’s status faze him – he was going to con them, as well. Putting his Botafogo experience behind him, he came up with a new plan – to steal the identity of a much more famous player.
That player’s name was Carlos Enrique. Winner of the 1984 Copa Libertadore, against European giants Liverpool. The Copa Libertadore is one of the most prestigious honours in club football, and Kaiser’s hijacking of Enrique’s identity was his most grandiose act of fraud yet. Once again, he implemented his plan of phantom injury to escape playing time once again – bailing out when he felt he was close to being exposed. He also would pay fans if they chanted his name in front of the owner of whatever club he was at – his fantasy truly knew no bounds.
Carlos Kaiser ‘retired’ in 1992 – leaving behind a storied, illustrious, and…empty career. He will be remembered as the beautiful game’s most beloved fraud, as teammates still (for whatever reason) speak highly of him today:
“He is a friend. He is very dear to us all,”
“Kaiser never did anyone any harm; he just wanted to be happy.”Former teammate, Mauricio
Carlos Kaiser is still alive and well today. He released a documentary called Kaiser: The Greatest Footballer Never To Play Football in 2018 – where the world at large was exposed to his schemes. His legacy in the sport is impossible to discuss as he, you know, never actually played – but his charm and penchant for excuses has done more for his legacy outside the game than step-overs or beautiful goals ever could. If anything, he’s an example that you can do whatever you want in life – as long as nobody ever finds out how bad you are at doing it.