Confessions of Carlos Kaiser: football’s biggest conman
“They would call him Maradona as he looked like him... the fat Maradona”
The Kaiser’s ineptitude on the pitch became increasingly obvious to his team-mates. “I had to train him like all the other players,” says Marcos Meira, who met the Kaiser in 1989 as a fitness coach at Fluminense. “The way he looked – fat, with those dark glasses – and his manner... everyone knew he was a joke. Nobody could understand how he got to be at Fluminense.
“He always had a little problem; always injured. He arrived overweight and wasn’t in any condition to train,” says Meira. “He shot badly, he played badly. The players joked, ‘Where did this artist come from?’ They called him Maradona – ‘Hey Maradona!’ He looked like Maradona, but the fat Maradona.”
But whenever the cameras were rolling at training, the Kaiser was suddenly in the middle of the action. “‘Can you take a photo of me?’ he would say,” recalls Meira, who nevertheless couldn’t help but warm to this imposter within the ranks. “He has good conversation. He knows how to make an entrance; how to make friends.”
Friends such as Carlos Alberto De Araujo Prestes – ‘Tato’ – who already knew the Kaiser when he pitched up at Vasco. Tato remembers the moment he was marked as a fake. Before training one day, seven or eight players formed a circle, put one guy in the middle and began passing the ball around him, the idea being that the piggy in the middle had to win the ball to get out of the circle. Carlos was the piggy, and in the circle Tato was joined by several other top-class players, including World Cup-winning striker Bebeto. Tato laughs at the memory: “He couldn’t get out of the middle. It was really difficult for him. Everyone realised he wasn’t a player. Kaiser is a good guy, a cool guy, but if you play football you could see he didn’t have it.”
At the time, the presence in the squad of a guy who didn’t actually play wasn’t unusual though, says Alexandre Torres. “In the ’80s, players stayed a long time at a team. Sometimes they would bring a friend, a guy who was fun, who could make a barbecue, make jokes, and would hang out with the players.” If this ‘mascot’ was in reasonable shape, if he looked like he could be a player, his presence would be tolerated – even encouraged. “Coaches would let this person become part of the day-to-day of the club,” explains Torres. “He doesn’t play, but he is there on the bus and at the stadium. This happened a lot.”
Another role of this ‘vibes-master’ might be to organise parties and women – one of the unofficial roles in which the Kaiser seemed to excel. At one club – he won’t say which – he organised 10 girls to entertain players in an out-of-town hotel before a Saturday game. “We arrived on Thursday and I was two floors below with the girls,” he says. “The players came down to the rooms without having to leave the hotel at night, and went up again afterwards. Nobody knew anything.” There was no alcohol involved, he insists, and the women were not being paid for their presence. “They were all artists, not prostitutes.” Like the Kaiser himself, perhaps.
“I feel guilty: a lot of good people had expectations and I never delivered”
Since being outed in Brazil early in 2011, the Kaiser has become better-known for not playing than he ever was as a player. He told TV Globo that he was part of Argentine team Independiente’s Copa Libertadores-winning 1984 squad, but it was another Carlos Henrique, an Argentine. He turned an interview with Jo Soares – a sort of Brazilian David Letterman – to his own advantage when he invited one of his female bodybuilding gym clients with him into the TV studio, to strip to her bikini.
Another, Carmen Cardoso, was also there. “He demands a lot of his students,” she says. “He’s a very, very good teacher.”
She giggles about his football past, which she found out about just recently. “I thought it was funny,” she says. The Kaiser himself says he regrets his years of subterfuge. “I feel guilty I didn’t fulfil people’s expectations. A lot of good people created expectations around me and I never delivered results,” he says.
But for the other players, all retired now, he was more than just a guy they liked. He was unique; an odd sort of football genius in a country full of them. Says Tato: “To have managed to do all this, to do all these tests at different clubs, convince people he was injured, convince all these people he was a genuine player but never to have played... he was an artist.”
This feature first appeared in the February 2012 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. Subscribe!