The premise of Louis Myles’s documentary is so absurd it sounds like a myth. The idea of a footballer earning contracts for an entire career without playing a single game can’t possibly be true. Except of course, it mostly is.
Throughout the 80s and 90s, Carlos Henrique Raposo aka Carlos Kaiser played for a variety of football clubs in the Brazilian leagues, but Kaiser was no footballer. He believed he bore a resemblance to Franz ‘Der Kaiser’ Beckenbauer, and gave himself the nickname The Kaiser accordingly. But still, Kaiser was no footballer.
Rather, Kaiser was a con man, plain and simple. A man so adept at selling himself, he was never required to kick a ball, let alone sell a dummy.
As director Myles so beautifully illustrates in this mind-bendingly ridiculous tale, The Kaiser used his good looks and, for want of a better phrase, balls of steel to convince club after club that he was a player worth having on their books.
He trained hard, partied harder, but avoided kicking a ball at all costs. He would feign injury until he was released from his contract before starting the racket up again with a new club, one oblivious to his tactics. For the previous club would be too ashamed to admit they had been duped.
It started with Brazil legend Carlos Alberta, who signed the young Kaiser only to realise he was in fact useless, but in doing so Alberta set Kaiser on his journey, for he now had something to put on his CV.
He also resembled another player – Renato Gaucho – which he used to his advantage (mostly to get into nightclubs). Indeed, Kaiser had a variety of tricks up his sleeve to stay relevant, and his audacity carried him through a career that apparently lasted longer than Michael Owen’s.
Louis Myles revels in the nutty nature of the affair, stitching interviews together with the people who witnessed Kaiser in ‘action’, and interspersing them with colourful reenactments of Kaiser’s story (including abstract shots of a Kaiser lookalike strutting around in budgie smugglers).
It’s an interesting approach, but somehow muddies the waters. It’s an unbelievable (and potentially well-embellished) story that flits into what seems like a fictional presentation. And perhaps that might even be the best way to tell the story after all.
And it’s impossible to lose sight of the fact that Kaiser was, ultimately, a con man. And when he appears on camera he is inevitably a little disappointing; the myth is so much more interesting than the man.