A new film tells the story of Carlos Kaiser, who was one of the most famous footballers in Brazil for over 20 years even though he had no intention of ever kicking a ball
You might know the voiceover at the start of The Big Lebowski. As tumbleweed meanders through Los Angeles, Sam Elliott introduces us to the films main character: Goes by the name of Jeff Lebowski. At least that was the handle his loving parents gave him, but he never had much use for it himself. See, this Lebowski, he called himself The Dude.
The Stranger rambles on about this and that until he gets somewhere near the point. Sometimes, theres a man. And Im talkin about the Dude here – the Dude from Los Angeles. Sometimes, theres a man; well, hes the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And thats the Dude.
Its also Kaiser, in Rio de Janeiro, in the 1980s and 1990s. Carlos Henrique Raposo was the handle his parents gave him but he never had much use for that. This Raposo, he called himself Kaiser. And in one ostentatiously bemulleted package, he embodied the roguish charm of one of the worlds most soulful cities. Rio de Janeiro is a special state, says Joel Santana, the coach who has won the state championship (the Campeonato Carioca) with all four of Rios main clubs. Cariocas (natives of Rio) are more free, relaxed, fun. The environment is conducive to it. A lot of beach. A lot of samba. A lot of drums. You get into the groove without knowing. A good Carioca is somebody who knows how to live life.
Kaiser has lived life to the brim. In his pomp he was everything from fixer to gigolo to party planner to gangsters pet. Most of all, he was footballs finest conman. Renato Gacho, one of the finest Brazilian players of his generation, calls Kaiser the greatest footballer never to have played football. He had a career spanning more than two decades, during which he was associated with Rios four biggest clubs Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo and Vasco da Gama as well as Bangu, Amrica and a number of overseas teams. Yet throughout his career he went out of his way not to play football. I wanted to be among the other players, Kaiser says. I just didnt want to play. Its everybody elses problem if they want me to be a footballer. Not even Jesus pleased everybody. Why would I?
His story is so astonishing that, in 2015, a British company bought exclusive rights for a feature-length documentary. It includes interviews with legends of Brazilian football such as Carlos Alberto, Zico, Jnior, Bebeto and Renato Gacho not to mention multiple audiences with Kaiser. His memory is somewhere between selective and defective, and there is an undeniable element of fantasy to his story. As you dig deeper, one thing becomes abundantly clear: a lot of this stuff really did happen.