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The Soccer War Paperback – February 4, 1992

4.3 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 4, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679738053
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679738053
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #443,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Not having read Ryszard Kapuściński before, I picked this book up because I was interested in learning more about "The Soccer War" after I heard a BBC podcast about it. Knowing the book only had a single article about the Soccer War, I decided to read it anyway because the other topics seemed interesting.

While other reviewers have said that about half the book deals with Africa, I think it is more like three-fourths of the book. Some of tales about about Kapuściński's bravery and nerve are a little egotistical (although I don't doubt they happened). He seems to enjoy talking about his hardships in an Ernest Hemmingway-like prose. The essays about Ben Bella in Algeria are fascinating. They offer a lot of assumptions that ring true, even though the essays are somewhat scant on details.

After reading "The Soccer War," I read that Kapuściński is something of a folk-hero among the literati, even though his critics say he mixes fiction with fact. Many of his stories do not seem true, such as his description of driving alone between two sides of a civil war, getting doused in benzyne and then let free after someone at a checkpoint laughs maniacally, ramming through the next checkpoint in his Peugeot, and then being sprayed with bullets and having Molotov cocktails hurled at him.

I also do not like the way he refers to Africans as having one mentality, calling them collectively "the black," is in "the black believes..." I don't know if this was acceptable when he was writing in the '60s, but describing all Africans in that same breath is certainly bad sociology and bad journalism if it isn't outright racist.
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