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The Soccer War
Ryszard Kapuściński
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The Soccer War

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  1,857 ratings  ·  120 reviews
Stories of Africa, Cyprus, and Latin America from a Polish journalist.
Paperback, 234 pages
Published January 1992 by Vintage International (first published 1969)
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And yet again, another book that taught me not to whine and write about how the trip was uncomfortable, the food was bad, the mosquitoes were huge, the leeches were everywhere, etc etc. These trivialities don't deserve to be mentioned in books. But if you are staring at the barrel of a gun pointed in your direction by a jittery boy no older than 8 years old in an improvised checkpoint in the middle of night, then that's something to write about.
Great book. The difference between Kapuscincki and the average person could be summed up in an anecdote he relates in this book. One evening he was drinking (heavily, as usual) in a bar in some Third World backwater when a wild-eyed man barges in and starts shouting, "They're killing anyone who goes down that road, stay away!" I'd stay put, might even crawl under the table, Kapuscinski finishes his drink and ventures down the road to see what's happening. Brave man, wonderful writer.
p.145: The desk. "Behind such a desk, man resembles an invalid in an orthaepedic brace . . . Furniture divides man from man . . . Upon the desk I have declared a silent war. . . . Many thinkers worry over the progressive bureaucratization of the world and the social threat of its terror. Yet they forget that these very bureaucrats are themselves terrorized, and that they are terrorized by their desks. Once plunked down behind one, a man will never learn to tear himself free."
p. 190: "Today one h
Sean Mccarrey
If Travels With Herodotus was Kapuscinski's ode to his passion of travel, if Shadow of the Sun was his ode to Africa, The Emperor and The Shah of Shahs his ode to the rule of despotic and complex characters, Imperium his ode to the era of the Second World, Another Day of Life his ode to the ravages of war, the Other as his ode to philosophy, then the Soccer War seems to be his ode to the feelings of joy and despair in the third world. Not only does Kapuscinski explore his own feelings in such si ...more
Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic. Legendary Polish reporter recounts his time covering Africa, Latin America, and parts of Central Europe in the 60s and 70s in remarkably clean and pithy and luminous writing that pounds away until you realize it's woven a spell around you. Alma Guillermoprieto told our class, as an exercise to improve our writing, that we should copy one page of a good book in longhand every day. I may start doing that with this one. Here's a bit in non-longhand:

The whole land of
This book was terrific. It's non-fiction, sort of a compilation of articles Kapuscinski wrote in the course of covering coups and revolutions in post-colonial Africa in the 60's and 70's. It would've been easy for him to get caught up in the drama of that experience, but he is really good at relating his experiences to a broader context. Also, I admire the way that he can be incredibly concise-- I've found myself in travel writing to prattle on, to over-explain every little thing. Kapuscinski gi ...more
I see the term "magic journalism" that is coined to describe Kapuscinski's writing is very appropriate.
It was my good fortune that somebody in my book club chose this little gem to read. I hadn’t heard of Kapuściński before, and perhaps I never would have. Even if I did, I doubt I would have read anything by him. A Polish journalist?

Whenever I try to explain to friends what is so enjoyable about this book, my mind jumps to the writing. Kapuściński is just a damned good writer. He is a master of brevity. He can conjure a scene, a town, a whole country, with just a few paragraphs. He can summon up
kapuscinski's writing typically takes the form of a shared personal journal, and soccer war showcases him at his most diary-oriented. it's quite similar to his memoir the shadow of the sun, only less focused and more scatterbrained. there's even more globe-trotting than usual too - the conflict between el salvador and honduras that gives the book its name doesn't arrive on the scene until 2/3rds of its pages have passed, and we're treated to a half dozen stops in africa before he finds his way t ...more
Shivaji Das
This is a collection of essays that individually didn't have enough material to make a whole book from (unlike his Imperium and Shah of Shahs). None the less, it has all the best elements of Kapuscinski reporting - immediacy, non-judgemental, and thoughtfulness. As ususal, he goes places that are quite a few notches uncomfortable than hanging around the Pentagon or Capitol for news snippets - coups and revolutions in Dahomey, Ogaden, Algeria. In a handful of pages, he manages to draw vivid portr ...more
"Upon the desk, I have declared a silent war. It is, after all, a specific piece of furniture with particular properties. While many whole categories of furniture may be man's serviceable instruments, his slaves, in the case of the desk a contrary relationship obtains: man is its instrument, its slave. Many thinkers worry over the progressive bureaucratization of the world and the social threat of its terror. Yet they forget that these very bureaucrats are themselves terrorized, and tha
Thurston Hunger
Feb 15, 2009 Thurston Hunger rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: self-embedding journalists
Kapuscinski had the gene that drew him to points on the globe where injustice and violence were festering most. Me, I'll cross over the street if I hear a couple arguing too loudly, and yet I admire Kapuscinski. I also like how he can keep an eye on the bigger scene, while his ear is on the locals, and their own mini-drama.

This book is more ramshackle than others (like Shah of Shahs or Imperium), with several chapters titled something like The Further Adventures of My Unfinished Book. Those cont
This is the third Kapuściński book I've read...the others being The Emperor and Shah of Shahs . The two previous ones were about specific people (Haile Selassie and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi respectively) while this one covers wars and revolutions in a variety of places on four continents. The bulk of the book is spent in Africa with quite a bit about the Congo and Patrice Lumumba, but also a lot about Algeria, Ghana, Nigeria, etc.

Then it's off to Central America for the "Soccer War" between El
قصي بن خليفة
مفاجأة سعيدة هذا الكتاب
كنت أظنه شيئاً وجاء شيئاً آخر رائعاً

الكتاب مترجم إلى الإنجليزية من البولندية ومع ذلك فقد كان الأسلوب ممتعاً جداً وفيه رواية لأحداث وتنقلات بطريقة أدبية غير ذات تكلف. وفي أحيان كثيرة كنت أظن أني لا أفهم ما يريد الكاتب قوله، ولكن في الفقرة التالية يزول اللبس، وهذا مقصود ولكن بسلاسة وجمال. وهو ظريف جداً وحتى عندما روى موقفه مع بعض الثوار الأفارقة وكيف صبوا عليه البنزين ليحرقوه
الكتاب هو كتاب رحلة وصحافة سياسية وجزء من سيرة ذاتية. جاء على شكل مجموعة من المقالات رابطها الكاتب شخ
I can imagine the scene in my head. Among a group of journalists someone calls out, “The shit is about to hit the fan in (insert name of shit-hole country).” Then we cut to the street as Ryszard Kapuściński hails a cab. “Taxi, take me to the fan, and step on it!”

There are precious few real journalists these days in our era of Brian Williams and Bill O’Reilly making up crap about their exploits as newsmen. First of all, neither of the two are journalists, they are news readers. Television is almo
Leanne Cameron
Kapuściński, always brilliant, on what it is to travel and understand better yourself: "Suddenly I felt shame, a sense of having missed the mark. It was not my country I had described. Snow and a lack of colonies- that's accurate enough, but it is not what we know or what we carry around within ourselves; nothing of our pride, of our life, nothing of what we breathe... We always carry it to foreign countries, all over the world, our pride and powerlessness. We know its configuration, but there i ...more
Jeremy Goldsmith
I am a huge fan of Kapunscinski! This is one of the best books I have read in a long long time. He was such an amazing writer. This book is written in such a way that you can only feel that you were there with him on every adventure. The locales are so interesting. West African countries in chaos, because of their recent independence. He stories about some of the most influential leaders and tyrants as well are spectacular. His brushes with death, his understanding of Africa and South America ar ...more
Nicholas Beck
Beyond superb and a riveting read. Short articles and essays on a variety of conflicts in Africa and elsewhere, eg Cyprus, Kapuscinski launches himself fearlessly and some would say recklessly into situations most us would balk from and freeze in a state of terror. Just read his account of driving into the Congo through numerous roadblocks only to get to his destination and turn back, this time with a somewhat reluctant police escort who may or may not defend him if they are threatened. He has a ...more
Eddy Allen

Part diary and part reportage, The Soccer War is a remarkable chronicle of war in the late twentieth century. Between 1958 and 1980, working primarily for the Polish Press Agency, Kapuscinski covered twenty-seven revolutions and coups in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. Here, with characteristic cogency and emotional immediacy, he recounts the stories behind his official press dispatches—searing firsthand accounts of the frightening, grotesque, and comically absurd aspects of life
Joe Strawson
More eloquently written work by a man that's seemingly seen it all. Kapuscinski describes his travels (mainly in Africa) over a twenty year period. The book is almost in diary format; fragmented, with chapters merely written as notes for several books he was unsure about writing. The book jumps around a lot but is a powerful chronicle of Kapuscinski throwing himself into the deep end of an Africa pushing for independence, providing gripping reports. The title 'The Soccer War' is misleading, it c ...more
This book holds a mirror to the life of one who has seen it all. It is a mixture of reportage, biography and reflection. The writing is bittersweet without being sentimental and the tone is moral but not preachy. Kapuscinski had unparalleled access to some of the most important events of the mid to late 20th Century, this came as a result of him being one of the only journalists from the Eastern Bloc to be allowed into parts of Africa and Latin America, and to witness first-hand an era of sweepi ...more
Daniel Hammer
Kapuscinski's has lived his life in unstable places, writing as a journalist and developing penetrating insights about the people and places he encounters. Much of this book is based on the places he lived in the late 1960s in Africa, a period during which revolutions, coups, and charismatic leaders tried to fill the power void left by the end of European colonialism. It is fascinating to read about this time, to spot the obvious parallels between Africa then and unstable countries today, and to ...more
Martina Keller
Interesting book. Basically, it's a collection of essays that form a kind of a memoir by a Polish journalist who covered armed conflict throughout Cold War era Africa and Latin America. This man saw hell on earth-- many times over. What I found fascinating was that he very often seemed to have certain status within these war torn, God forsaken places as a reporter from a Communist, non-colonizing nation -- particularly at a time when the Cold War was being played out in many of the conflicts on ...more
An insightful view from a reporter at ground level for the coups and uprisings across various third world nations focusing primarily on the rise and fall of Kwame Nkruma of Ghana, Sekou Toure of Guinea and Patrice Lumuma of Congo. Kapuszinski time and again focuses on the absurdity of war and on how these regionalized conflicts never truly solve the underlying disputes but rather become self-perpetuating circles of violence claiming untold numbers of victims. The best case in point seems to be t ...more
I haven't been even halfway through the book when I realised that I started avoiding it... "What's wrong with you? - I thought to myself - it is THE Kapuściński for goodness' sake, read it and be happy!". But... but this book is not even close to the genuine reporter's fascination of developping countries' people and stories. It was not a travel with Herodotus, it was a notebook or rather a scrapbook of "been there, done that". There was no soul in the storytelling. It was a telegraph of informa ...more
"You pay for every meeting with death."

It takes a special kind of crazy for a person to feel compelled to fly towards the nearest war or revolution. Kapuscinski is such a person, and each time in this book he finds himself in a situation where he's resigned to his probably imminent death, I found myself agreeing that yes, you probably should have died. Again.

This is not a detailed account of various revolutions and wars though, and often we're given little context of the situation he's covering.
M. Milner
A great collection of reportage, The Soccer War is like reading the diary of a foreign correspondant. For about 20 years, he covered wars, revolution and fledging democracy across the world, witnessing the brutal and the banal. This book is him looking back, a loose collection of memories and events, only some of them connected. What's most admirable is not what he witnessed, but how he treats these events.

For example, Kapuściński writes about The Soccer War, a clash between El Salvador and Hond
This book is called The Soccer War, but it actually consists of Kapuscinski's diary-like firsthand accounts of several different Third World war zones, with only one chapter about the 1969 El Salvador-Honduras conflict. Most of the book is actually about Africa (Ghana, Algeria, and the Congo in particular). Kapuscinski seems to gravitate naturally towards places of insurrection and violence, and it is a miracle that he died in old age a few years ago and not much earlier.

The writing is forceful
The Soccer War, lebih mudah aku mengerti, walaupun bingung sebetulnya kapan tulisan ini berakhir. Mudah-mudahan hanya karena kesalahan dalam memperbanyak tulisan. Soalnya ada 3 tulisan, yang pertama berjudul The Soccer War, kemudian Victoriano Gomez on TV dan terakhir sebuah tulisan High Time Continued, or The Plan of The Next Unwritten Book, Etc.

Tulisan pertama, bercerita tentang peperangan antara Honduras dan El Savador yang disebabkan oleh pertandingan bola. Intuisi seorang Luis Suarez, membu
A brilliant work. Strangely unclassifiable. Part reportage, part personal notebook, part self-mythologization, part political analysis, part poetry. At the most generic level of description, a work of nonfiction from various war-torn and troubled places in Africa and Latin America, but somehow both more and less than that. At times finely particular, and at other times broad to the level of general cycles of history. Always startling, with the frisson of the real.
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Ryszard Kapuściński debuted as a poet in Dziś i jutro at the age of 17 and has been a journalist, writer, and publicist. In 1964 he was appointed to the Polish Press Agency and began traveling around the developing world and reporting on wars, coups and revolutions in Asia, the Americas, and Europe; he lived through twenty-seven revolutions and coups, was jailed forty times, and survived four deat ...more
More about Ryszard Kapuściński...
The Shadow of the Sun The Emperor Travels with Herodotus Imperium Shah of Shahs

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“pequeños países del Tercer Mundo tienen la posibilidad de despertar un vivo interés sólo cuando se deciden a derramar sangre. Es una triste verdad, pero así es.” 0 likes
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