Football, with its vast fortunes and off the pitch perks, has been targeted by con men from the boardroom to the pitch since it turned professional.
From the Sheffield Wednesday match fixing scandal of the 1960s to Ali Dia and his Southampton contract the sport has been plagued by people looking to swell their own bank accounts and make themselves famous.
One man stands out among the pack though. Carlos Henrique, “The Kaiser”, a man who played for some of the biggest South American and French clubs all whilst doing his utmost to avoid ever having to play a professional football match in his life.
Carlos had much the same dreams as anyone with a love of the game. Growing up as a football fan in the wake of Brazil’s stunning success in the 1970 World Cup, Carlos wanted to emulate his heroes on the pitch.
He showed some talent and was even brought on trial by Puebla FC, a then Mexican First Division side. The only problem with Carlos’ dream was that he wasn’t good enough to make the grade and was released without ever playing a match.
Determined to pursue his footballing career he returned to Rio de Janeiro and in the nightclubs of the city he befriended some of the brightest Brazilian talents of the era, among them Bebeto, Romario and Renato Gaucho. Carlos took well to the night life of a famous footballer and used his new-found contacts to further his career prospects.
Enlisting the help of his friends Carlos was able to secure a three-month trial contract with Botafogo that gave them the option of playing him in league matches. He had the physique and the natural fitness of an athlete so first impressions of him were favourable.
But Carlos knew that he would be required to play in a practice match soon and so came up with a simply but effective way of prolonging his Botafogo career, he feigned injury.
The story goes that Carlos asked for a few weeks fitness training before playing his first match. He told the club that he was a natural striker due to his speed and so the coaches gave him some time.
When the time came for a match Carlos asked for the first ball played to him to be played a number of yards ahead of him. He chased it and fell to the ground clutching his hamstring, insisting he had torn it. Medical technology being what it was in the 1980s there was no way of disproving the claim and so Carlos went to the treatment table.
As a ruse it worked well. He remained a Botafogo player on their payroll and, of course, during this period Carlos would hit all the nightclubs with his teammates and enjoy the company of the many women who were looking to meet a professional footballer.
He even enhanced his own reputation by pretending to speak English on his own mobile phone to admiring European clubs in front of his team-mates and the Botafogo staff.
This lasted until the club doctor, fluent in English, realised the now nicknamed Kaiser wasn’t able to speak English at all. Sneaking a look at the mobile phone, the doctor realised that it was nothing more than a toy.
Kaiser, like all great con men, had a knack of knowing when it was time to move on. He left Botafogo and used his footballer friends to secure him a new contract, this time at Flamengo. Using the same fitness to injury table routine he was able to gain months of employment and fame from the club before moving on again.
He would repeat his trick at clubs in Brazil, Mexico, the US and France, living for years as a professional footballer without ever playing a match.
Some of the stories of how he dodged line ups have become the thing of legend. At Bangu he was sent to warm up so he could be brought on as the side trailed. Instead he used the anger of Bangu’s fans to his own ends and jumped on to the cage separating them from the pitch so he could remonstrate with them.
The referee sent him off for inciting the crowd but afterwards Kaiser explained his actions as being that of a son sticking up for his proud father, the club’s chairman.
God gave me a father, who passed away. But He gave me another, and I’ll never allow anyone to say my father (the chairman) is a thief. But the fans were saying exactly that. That’s why I intervened.
At the French side Ajaccio he was horrified to see a crowd of fans waiting to witness the first training session of their new Brazilian superstar and so took every single football on the pitch and kicked them to his adoring spectators, all whilst kissing the club’s crest and proclaiming loudly about how much he means to them.
The team then could only do physical training like running as they had no footballs to kick around. Kaiser would play for Ajaccio however and would eventually retire back home in Brazil with a record of thirty games played in a career that spanned over twenty years.
Popular culture is full of people who chanced their luck for fame or fortune. From movies like Pain and Gain to Catch Me If You Can everyone loves hearing about a total fraud who gets away the deception, for a short time at least.
No doubt in the near future cinema will tell the story of football’s greatest fraud, Carlos Henrique Kaiser.