The Kaiser examines trickery and soccer

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‘The Kaiser’: film debates malandragem (trickery) and soccer in Rio de Janeiro

The British-made documentary looks at the formation of the Rio trickster by way of Carlos Kaiser

Kaiser is a nickname that, for some – including Carlos Henrique Raposo, owner of the honorary title – traces a parallel with that of German Franz Beckenbauer, a world champion that played for Germany. There are those who point out a less pompous comparison, comparing the physical form of the guy with the nickname to a bottle of beer.

It is a fact that the trajectory of the Brazilian Kaiser, who played for the four big clubs in Rio and also played in Europe without ever being a football player, underscores the trickster’s ambiguity. And if Brazilians still try to decide between fascination and embarrassment, foreign aid will soon arrive via the big screen: the documentary “The Kaiser”, by British director Louis Myles.


Louis Myles, director of the documentary, kicks a ball with Eduardo Lara, an actor who plays Kaiser

The documentary immerses itself in the story of Carlos “Kaiser”, a character who made a career in football forging an image of a player that had little (or no) basis in technical quality. Kaiser, who started at Botafogo, got contracts through friendships with other players, or simply selling snake oil to club officials – and then using tricks to avoid being discovered.

When he signed with Bangu in the 1980s, he had a fight with fans and was sent off when he was warming up to take the field. He alleged that he heard trash talk about Castor de Andrade, then-president of the club. Instead of being punished, he ended up winning a contract extension for apparently proving his loyalty.

The interest in the unusual trajectory united Myles and a group of producers from the UK. None of them had come to Brazil before preparations for the 2014 World Cup. It was a time when the economic boom and international attention seemed to lead to renewed customs that, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, had created a romantic image of the country, although not always positive.

“When I talked to Tim Vickery (BBC correspondent in Brazil), he told me it was the best story he had ever heard from Brazil, not just in sports. There are other cases of players who have cheated clubs for some time, but with Kaiser they lasted 26 years”, notes Myles. “For a gringo, it’s harder to understand that sort of thing. People in Brazil are very receptive and friendly, except when someone from the outside begins to ask lots of questions about cheating. Kaiser himself asked not to be called ‘171’ (a trickster).


Today, at 54 years old and far from football, Kaiser was interviewed for the documentary, whose filming began in 2015. The director himself admits that he couldn’t trust everything he heard. The former player, however, became more than mere character to Myles and his team, with whom he developed a relationship of complicity. Not surprising: it was Kaiser’s good relationship with then-football stars like Bebeto and Renato Gaucho, which opened a few doors for him.


Kaiser in the famous photo next to Renato Gaucho, in the 90’s

“Almost everyone we spoke to showed a lot of affection for Kaiser. Everyone likes these romantic characters, full of personality. These are stories that could happen anywhere, provided there is a certain context. Kaiser is from a time when the great Brazilian players did not go to Europe, but played in Rio. The stadiums filled up more, there was a passionate atmosphere around football”, says Tom Markham, a football finance expert who, drawn by Kaiser’s story, became the documentary’s producer.

To get close to Kaiser, Myles learned to speak Portuguese and also adapted to the carioca way. The director stresses that the focus of his film is the player’s story – including, he guarantees, unprecedented details – but he estimates that it would be impossible to present it without understanding the Brazilian context.

Myles recalls that back when Kaiser played, with an unstable currency and political turmoil, the gulf between rich and poor was seen as more insurmountable than it seemed at the beginning of the present decade. After traveling to Brazil several times since the 2014 World Cup, he says a regression of expectations and “erosion of confidence” is visible.

“I don’t see it as a problem solely in Brazil, but here it is felt differently due to the expectation that had arisen,” Myles says. “Until the filming began, I had no idea that malandragem was something typical of Rio. Personally, I like the trickster’s celebration. In the UK, for example, there is a fascination with the anarchy of the punk movement. It’s as if people have to have something like that to deal with the difficult day-to-day. But there are consequences in doing so.

In addition to interviews, “The Kaiser” will feature some staged parts. Kaiser, for example, will be played by actor Eduardo Lara. The film is in the final stages of shooting, and due to be completed in early May. The forecast is to launch in September, with versions narrated in English and Portuguese.

“I had to dramatize some things because basically there is no footage of Kaiser,” says the director. “On the other hand, I think if I delivered a totally re-enacted movie, no one would believe the story. – Source (PT)

As I was translating the Brazilian version, an English article about the film came out.


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