BY CHRIS ETCHINGHAM
Franz Beckenbauer was nicknamed The Kaiser simply for being strong, resolute and having an air of competence and respect; every team wanted their own Kaiser. Brazil had theirs and never was a nickname more inappropriate.
Carlos Henrique believed that he was given the Kaiser moniker because his playing style was similar to that of the legendary German and he may have been right too, though as he played such little football it was impossible to actually tell. Forget Ali Dia, George Weah’s supposed cousin; Henrique is arguably footballs greatest charlatan. In a career that lasted twenty years, he went to herculean efforts in a bid not to play.
Like most of his peers when he was growing up, Henrique wanted to be a footballer. Indeed, he did show some promise and for a short while he played for Mexican outfit Pueblo. His stint at the club was short lived and he was soon released; battered and bruised, Henrique was unwilling to let go of his dream just yet. He made use of his extensive contacts within the Brazilian football scene to secure short term contracts with a number of clubs and so his meandering journey began.
Henrique’s modus operandi for avoiding actually having to play a match in anger was brilliantly simple. He could count legends such as Romario and Edmundo amongst his close friends and he would gain himself a trial at a club where one of these players were signed to. He would then ask the coaching staff for time to gain physical fitness before taking part in proper training sessions. He was a physically impressive individual and was seen as quite an athlete. It was once he had regained fitness that he would implement the next phase of his cunning plan.
Henrique would ask a team mate to pass him the ball at which point he would give it an almighty hoof before collapsing onto the ground in a heap; “I’d grasp my hamstring in agony and spend the next twenty days in the medical department” he later recalled, “there were no MRI scanners in those days, so they had to believe me”.
Whilst injured Henrique would endear himself to his team mates by hiring rooms in hotels that the club had booked themselves into for away matches in the days before they arrived. He would then arrange for local women to stay in these rooms so he and his friends who were under strict club curfews at the hotel never felt the need to leave anyway.
There were a few close calls, however. One occurred when Henrique was playing for the Brazilian club Botafogo and was spotted talking in English into a mobile phone. All his colleagues were impressed with his explanation that he was speaking to a top European club to arrange a transfer. The club doctor though was less impressed. As the only other English speaker at the club he could see Henrique was spouting nothing but nonsense into his phone, a closer inspection of the mobile phone showed that it was nothing more than a toy.
He nearly came unstuck twice more, once when playing for French club Gazelec Ajaccio. At his unveiling thousands of fans had come to see their new Brazilian star show off his samba skills. At a time when Europe didn’t have too many Brazilian players at the top clubs, let alone an outpost like Corsica, the supporters wanted to see their new hero in action. Not wanting to look the fool, Henrique booted all the balls on the pitch into the stands for grateful fans to take home as souvenirs. Henrique and his new colleagues had no balls left to practice with leaving the coach no alternative but to have a training session of physical exercise which Henrique excelled at.
The other time Henrique was nearly rumbled was when playing for Brazilian club Bangu, when he was actually picked as a substitute to play in a league match. Facing his ultimate nightmare of actually playing he had to think fast. He decided to warm up on the touchline next to a particularly vociferous section of fans. He got into an argument with one of them followed by a fight and was promptly sent off before actually having to come onto the pitch.
After the match Henrique was approached by an apoplectic Castor de Andrade, the Bangu club president, who demanded an explanation. That explanation, of course, was simple; “before you say anything, God gave me a father who passed away. But he gave me another” at this point Henrique points at de Andrade “and I’ll never allow anyone to say my father is a thief and that is why I intervened”. An emotional de Andrade not only forgave Henrique but also gave him a six month contract extension. Shameless is not a word Henrique was familiar with.
Henrique managed to forge a footballing career which lasted for two decades. During that time he managed a paltry thirty first team appearances and no goals. In the pre-internet age when prospective clubs would struggle to find actual footage of him playing, he admirably managed to wing it. He played for clubs in Mexico, France, Argentina (where he claims he won the Copa Libertadores with Independiente) as well as a number of top Brazilian ones too; he plied his trade at Vasco da Gama, Palmeiras, Botafogo and Flamengo as well as ingratiating himself with legends of the Brazilian game.
He was one of life’s great chancers and whilst the Kaiser nickname is wholly inappropriate, maybe ‘The Machiavellian’ would be more suitable.
YOU CAN FOLLOW CHRIS ON TWITTER @CArmband AND CHECK OUT HIS BLOG https://emancipationforgoalposts1.wordpress.com/ HE IS ALSO THE HOST OF THE NEW TWFP PODCAST AND THE AWARD WINNING MAN ON THE POST PODCAST