Kaiser: The Greatest Footballer Never to Play Football review – meet the Brazilian Mr Ripley

first_imgThis is a fascinating documentary from British film-maker Louis Myles about someone who, in the 1980s and 90s, became a legend in the world of Brazilian football. Someone whose pure outrageousness was hiding in plain sight. His rackety career tells you a lot about human nature and people’s willingness to be fooled; about a media that saw its job simply as cheerleading; and about the Enronised nature of celebrity. It reminded me weirdly of The Talented Mr Ripley, or Bart Layton’s classic The Imposter, in that it’s about a sociopath and parasite. It is by turns bizarre, funny and desperately sad. It’s also about something too poignant to be toxic masculinity – more like rancid masculinity; masculinity that has gone off, like old milk left out of the fridge.Our antihero is Carlos “Kaiser” Henrique Raposo, now in his mid-50s, a former footballer from Brazil. He says his nickname is a respectful tribute to his playing resemblance to the German football star Franz “Der Kaiser” Beckenbauer, but it seems more likely that it’s because Kaiser was a brand of beer. For approximately 20 years, in the 1980s and 90s, Kaiser was employed as a footballer by a number of top Rio de Janeiro clubs. But he never actually played a match, never so much as kicked a ball. For all those years, he lived the life: he was a party animal and nightclub king. He was good-looking, a great dancer, a notorious womaniser and an inveterate wearer of tiny Speedos. He did everything footballers were supposed to do – except play football. The one time he was actually forced on to the field during a match, he pretended to have heard an opposing fan shout insults at the chairman, leapt into the crowd to start a fight and was duly sent off. To the bemusement of fellow players, he would train fiercely hard, though without going near the ball, then he would fake injury and get released from his contract, going from club to club and telling credulous TV interviewers about his supposed stints with clubs abroad. How on earth did he get away with it? It seems to have started when the actual Brazilian legend Carlos Alberto – captain of the 1970 World Cup-winning team – took a chance as coach on signing the keen young Kaiser. The bafflingly ineffective youngster was inevitably let go after a short while, but he had what amounted to a reference, and it got him a similarly short-lived job at another club, and another. Like so many victims of con tricks, each club was ashamed to say they’d been had, and the public and media were more focused on the real megastars. And so the cheeky chancer kept moving, just below the radar. Facebook Share on Pinterest Americas Support The Guardian Sign up for Film Today and get our film team’s highlights of the day Share on WhatsApp … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Twitter He also had a notable resemblance to another (genuine) player, Renato Gaúcho, and in his Ripleyesque way, kept pretending to be him, which got him into the best nightclubs. And his nickname was also the surname of another genuine player whom he looked like at a distance, so he was able to create a VHS highlights reel of his supposed goalscoring triumphs with the commentator screaming about “Kaiser”. In those pre-Google days, checking out his claims wasn’t easy; but reporters were in any case starstruck with all footballers.And finally, the awful, dismal truth was that Kaiser’s nightclub exploits had put him in a position to be the unofficial pimp to every top football star in Rio. He supplied girls, and it was convenient for everyone to pretend that he was actually a player and part of the establishment. And poor Kaiser wanted so badly to be a real football legend. The film ends with the sad things that have happened to him recently – or perhaps the sadness that was there all along – and it might have looked a little harder at that part of the story. But this is a gripping tale of dysfunction and self-delusion. Topics Tribeca film festival Brazil Documentary films Pinterest reviews Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Since you’re here… Share on Messenger Share on Facebook Share via Email Reuse this contentlast_img

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