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The Soccer War Paperback – February 4, 1992


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 4, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679738053
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679738053
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #495,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Journalism at its most incisive, these phosphorescent dispatches from the front investigate Third World wars of 1958-1976, probing the forces of political repression and societies stagnating or in the throes of change. Like a contemporary Conrad footloose in Africa, Polish reporter Kapuscinski ( Shah of Shahs ) evokes a continent coping with a colonialist legacy, torn between dictatorships, anarchy and struggles for liberation. He writes of the murder of Congo prime minister Patrice Lumumba, the mid-1960s Nigerian civil war which devastated the Yorubas, and Algeria's struggle to emerge from France's shadow. Drawing on his five-year stint in Latin America, he discusses torture in Guatemala and the 100-hour war between Honduras and El Salvador, triggered by a soccer contest in 1969, which left 6000 dead and many villages destroyed. More recent pieces in this powerful, impressive memoir deal with Turkey's invasion of northern Cyprus, Palestinian guerrillas and the internecine 1976 border dispute between Ethiopia and Somalia.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Being a foreign correspondent is not a job but a way of life; as Kapuscinski reveals in his latest book, that includes almost being burned to death and facing a firing squad. Unlike his popular The Emperor ( LJ 12/15/82) and Shah of Shahs ( LJ 3/15/85), he presents here the personal stories behind his press releases. Though the title refers to the 100-hour war between El Salvador and Honduras over a soccer match that left 6000 dead and 12,000 wounded, Kapuscinski's reminiscences range from 1958 to 1976 when he covered 27 revolts worldwide. He concludes that the immobility of the masses in the Third World is so problematic that even good leaders begin to confuse power with wisdom and thus lose the ability to distinguish politics from morality, or to work for the common good instead of themselves. Despite some interesting ideas and descriptions of terrifying experiences, Kapuscinski's account really adds little to the reader's knowledge. Public libraries only should consider.
- Louise Leonard, Univ. of Florida Libs., Gainesville
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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This is true in books like Imperium as well.
Kevin Peeples
The world is deeply indebted to the author for gathering the searing stories that otherwise would have remained largely untold.
Literary Larry
It is a great account of the cold war, as fought in Africa and Latin America.
L. Garcia

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Brandon Wilkening on January 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is actually a series of essays and dispatches from various corners of the world, unlike some of Kapuscinski's previous work, which looked in length at specific countries (Iran, Ethiopia, etc.). The various sections ranged from marvelous to merely good. The first half of the book chronicles Kapuscinski's visits to Africa in the 1960's, and he provides us with some wonderful portraits of that continent's post-indenpendence dilemmas. The author really seems to capture the mixture of optimism, heroism, disillusionment, and despair that nearly every African country went through. There is a particularly colorful look at Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah, as well as chapters on the Congo's Lumumba, Algeria's Ben Balla, a brutal civil war in Nigeria, and one of the most curious military takeovers I have ever read about in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), which Kapuscinski came upon by accident. The author relates riveting near-death experiences in the Nigeria and Burundi chapters. The latter half of the book chronicle's visits to Latin America, the Middle East, Cyrus, and the Ethiopia-Somalia border during the 1970's. I found his description of the 1969 "Soccer War" between Honduras and El Salvador to be especially compelling. Kapuscinski's specialty is not in technical, academic analyses of war, economic underdevelopment, or tyranny. Nor is he necessarily a sensationalist, out to shock readers with gory details. Of course, many of his stories are quite sensational to those unaquainted with such things, but his presentation is subtle and thoughtful. He seeks to find traces of humanity in even the most barbarous situations. Another thing I really appreciate about Kapuscinski is that he seemingly talks to everyone, from urban intellectuals to impoverished peasants.Read more ›
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By shuarodd@asu.edu, Joshua Rasplica Rodd on January 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
In the world of journalism, no one compares to Kapuscinski. For the sheer range of his intelligence, perception, bravery, and compassion, he stands unique; and in this book he collects the essence of what both allowed him and drove him to achieve his remarkable career. I'm always wary of journalists who try to summarize cultures other than their own--reducing a country's worth of people and all their pain, suffering, history, and joy into a few pithy phrases. But Kapuscinski writes with a combination of humility and experience that allows him to surpass the cynical superiority to which foreign correspondents are so often heir. Nor does he ever stoop to describing his travels as a set of exotic adventures and near misses with death. Instead, his sense of history and culture always blends his own activities with the larger political picture in a way which illuminates both. The overriding theme of THE SOCCER WAR is journalism--what it can be and what it can never be. The book's final essay, in which Kapuscinski, crouched by a fire in Ghana, contemplates his readers at home and the friends he sits with, is as fine a summary of the inherent contradictions of the calling as has ever been written. In these final pages, Kapuscinski condemns, celebrates, and demonstrates both the necessity and the impossibility of this strangest of all modern professions in a way that should haunt both journalists and anyone who has ever read a newspaper.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Miriam Bookey on November 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
It's almost impossible to process the news with the same perspective after reading this book...what was true in the 60s still rings true today. I picked up this book while simultaneously reading articles in Esquire and The New Yorker about people (Bill Gates, Bill Clinton...) trying to make a difference in Africa. While I was made hopeful by the observations in today's mainstream press, I grew increasingly frustrated when confronted with the dark reality that Kapuscinski exposes.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By giovanni on January 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
R.Kapuscinski has spend many years of his life travelling and trying to understand the reality and the way of thinking of the third world countries . The Soccer War is exactly about that , with it's biggest part reffering to Africa and it's final fifty-sixty pages dedicated to Central America .
Kapuscinski succeeds his aims on many levels . He manages both to analyze the political situation on places like Nigeria and Ghana , to focus on the motivations and strategy of the people who hold power there and at the same time he richly describes the landscapes , the scarried faces and the towns and neighbourhoods he had seen . What he seems to try to explain is this : despite the fact that there are many gifted politicians in these nations willing to make a difference , the lack of diplomatic maturity needed , the poverty and the unalphabatised mases will always stand as an obstacle to their lands' progress .
Finally i was very pleased to see for the first time in a foreign book a chapter about the merely occupied and still divided island of Cyprus , an overlooked national drama which hasn't received the attention it should have for over than thirty years now .
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on November 3, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As somebody who once lived in Honduras before the infamous soccer war of 1969, I long had Kapuscinski's book on my "must read" list. Though I bought it five years ago, I didn't get around to reading it till just now. I'm glad I did. THE SOCCER WAR is another sterling volume from this master of description.

THE SOCCER WAR isn't a book about the absurd war between El Salvador and Honduras, triggered by World Cup qualification matches, but really caused by El Salvador's overpopulation and the subsequent overflow of Salvadorenos into much-emptier Honduras. The war may also be ascribed to the fact that neither country has been able to tame its landowning classes, who continue to this day to run rampant over the poor masses of people. In any case, this war, which happened decades ago, occupies only 30 pages of a 234 page book. The rest of the book contains vignettes from Ghana, Nigeria, Congo, Burundi, Algeria, Tanganyika, Syria, Cyprus, and Ethiopia. I think another title would have given readers a better idea of what the book is about. Anyway, I would not say this book is about particular societies or countries, rather it is about the human condition. Kapuscinski, if you have read any of his other (excellent) work, specializes in inserting himself into extreme situations----war, rebellion, conflict, and abnormal behavior. Where the strictures of daily life have fallen down, we find him reporting, usually at considerable risk to his person. He is nearly burned to death in Nigeria, nearly executed in Burundi, nearly lynched in the Congo, nearly blown up in Honduras. In every case, he manages to portray some participants as humane and decent, or as simple people caught up in events beyond their control.
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