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The incredible story of Carlos Kaiser, the greatest conman in Football history

5 min read

Carlos Henrique Raposo (born 2 April 1963), better known as Carlos Kaiser, is a Brazilian former football player known primarily for having a decade-long career….without actually playing a single game.

As children, most people grow up dreaming of one day becoming sports champions, despite an obvious lack of athletic abilities.
Sadly, most of us realize this to be nothing more than an impossible dream and move on, but a few still manage to find ways of making their goal a reality, by any means necessary.
This is the case of Carlos Henrique Raposo, a Brazilian athlete who literally “wanted to be a footballer, but did not want to play football”.
Believe it or not, he managed to do it, playing for top-ranked Brazilian and international clubs for over a decade.
Ok.
Probably “playing” may not be the right word, as he never actually played an official game in his entire 12-year-long career.

Carlos Kaiser, nickname earned due to his alleged resemblance to German football legend Franz Beckenbauer, always knew that he had the physique of a professional football player, but not the necessary talent and skills to make the roster of any top football clubs, so he relied on a variety of tricks to build himself up as the great player that every team was after.
Carlos started his youth career at Botafogo, before moving to one of Brazil’s most popular clubs, Flamengo.
In 1979, during a training session, he impressed the scouts of Mexican club Puebla, and spent a few months overseas, before being released without playing a single official game.
It was upon his return to Brazil that his great charade began: what Carlos Kaiser lacked in athletic ability, he more than made up in social skills, befriending a number of high profile players at various clubs, as well as journalists, all used as a network to facilitate transfers and build up his image without ever taking to the field in official games.

He would begin his ruse by signing short contracts and stating from the beginning that he needed to work on his fitness to become in perfect shape for a match.
This gave him about five weeks to impress the team staff in physical training, where he would truly shine. However, in team practice games, he often faked hamstring injuries to hid his poor skills, and if teams wanted to investigate further, he had someone who always confirmed that he had some infection or injury.
Such rudimentary deception tactics wouldn’t work nowadays, however, in the 1980s didn’t allow clubs to verify whether players were faking injuries or not.
Thus, Carlos Kaiser managed to spend several months at a club without setting foot on the pitch in official games.
But this was only part of his con….

The (untalented) football player would also rely on journalist friends to hype himself up with fake articles about what a wonderful player he was.
One article even claimed that he had played so well at Puebla that he was invited to become a Mexican citizen, while another claimed he had been a top goalscorer for French team Gazalec Ajaccio, where he allegedly played for eight seasons.
His friend, Fabio “Fabinho” Barros, who actually played four seasons at the French club, later confirmed that he had never even been to Corsica!

Another way that Carlos Kaiser hyped himself up was to use toy cell phones to fake conversations in foreign languages and reject made-up transfer offers in public.
He once used photos of himself wearing in Ajaccio jersey that his friend had given him, and a fake identification card to improve his CV as a great football player.
The only time when Carlos Kaiser was actually close to having to take the field, was during his time at Brazilian club Bangu.
Tired of seeing him training all the time, but never actually playing, club patron Castor de Andrade instructed the coach to put him in, regardless of his physical condition.
While warming up, Carlos started looking for ways of avoiding play and found his saving grace in the opposing team’s supporters: seeing a group of supporters verbally abusing his teammates, Carlos Henrique Raposo rushed straight to them and got into a fight.
As a result, he immediately received a red card, before actually setting foot on the pitch. When confronted by Andrade, Carlos made up a story that the opposing team’s supporters had called the patron a thief, and he was only defending his honor.
Well, he allegedly got a six-month contract extension for it.

Either way, during his unbelievable career, Carlos Kaiser was registered at several prominent Brazilian football clubs, including Vasco Da Gama, Independiente, Fluminense and Flamengo, but he never actually played an official game for any of them.
And, if this wasn’t enough, his footballing career was so unbelievable that it inspired both a book and a popular documentary, both titled “Kaiser! The Greatest Footballer Never to Play Football”, which other curious facts.
According to part of the text, he even simulated a telephone conversation with Josep Lluís Núñez, the mythical president of Barcelona who was supposedly interested in hiring him.
In Brazil he is also remembered for faking communications in English with important Premier League teams.

During his 20-year career, he revealed that he played “between 20 or 30 games”, all of them friendlies and, in the 90s, he had as companions great figures such as Bebeto, Renato Gaúcho or Zico.
Now away from the soccer world, he assured the Brazilian media that he runs a gym in Brazil and is dedicated to being a personal trainer!

Images from web – Google Research