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The Soccer War

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  2,742 ratings  ·  174 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published February 4th 1992 by Vintage (first published 1969)
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Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am living on a raft in a side-street in the merchant district of Accra. The raft stands on pilings, two-storeys high, and is called the Hotel Metropol… In the tropics, drinking is obligatory. They frequently drink during the daytime, but in the evening the drinking is mandatory; the drinking is premeditated. After all, it is the evening that shades into night, and it is the night that lies in wait for anyone reckless enough to have spurned alcohol.

The opening words of the book. The chapter “Th
Jun 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
May 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Roy Lotz
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Sean Mccarrey
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
In his unmistakable style, in these mostly unconnected essays, Kapuscinski looks at the sheer weirdness of the world around him, whether he's covering the death of Patrice Lumumba or the titular violence surrounding a Honduras-El Salvador football match. While perhaps not as strong as his more concentrated studies-- Travels with Herodotus jumps to mind-- it's still classic Kapuscinski, and if you've made your way through a few of his journalistic works and travelogues, this is a logical next ste ...more
Adam  McPhee
Aug 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended to Adam by: War Nerd
Stories from a renowned Polish journalist who saw Africa in the sixties: Lumumba's Congo, a coup in newly independent Algeria, the Nigerian civil war, Ethiopian-Somali war and famine, parliamentary debate on a child support bill in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). Plus Israel-Palestine, Cyprus, and the eponymous Soccer War between Honduras and El Salvador, which kicked off because of soccer tensions and lasted one hundred hours, left 6,000 dead, and was missed by the world media who were focused on th ...more
Shivaji Das
Aug 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: other-lit, non-fic
I see the term "magic journalism" that is coined to describe Kapuscinski's writing is very appropriate.
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating reportage expressed with dazzling, Didion-esque literary flair, interspersed with personal observations marked by charming emotional honesty and a dash of wit. At times the writing was so good I had to put the book down and compose myself before going on.
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ann by: Virginia
"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 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
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
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite writers. Brilliant and spare ruminations on his experiences as a journalist covering conflicts in Algeria, Honduras, Ethiopia, DR Congo, Cyprus, and others.

"People who write history devote too much attention to so-called events heard around the world, while neglecting the periods of silence...Silence is necessary to tyrants and occupiers, who take pains to have their actions accompanied by quiet.

"What silence emanates from countries with overflowing prisons! In Somoza's Nicar
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
Kapuscinski was one of the greatest reporters around and his books are considered masterpieces in the use of the Polish language. "The Soccer War" was my introduction to this amazing man and, though episodic, the book has its moments of sheer horror. There's that moment when, whilst at a political meeting, you realise that all those around you, baying for blood, only see the colour of your skin - not your nationality. There's the chaos in the Congo when whites are being pulled out into the stree ...more
Dec 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished this and immediately started reading it again. It teaches me about places and histories I didn't know enough (or really anything) about before, like the titular soccer war in Central America, and various conflicts in Africa, but it's not all wedged firmly enough in my mind yet so I'm giving it another go. I also kind of really related to something that crept up in a few of Kapuscinski's essays, in which he encounters people who in turn know nothing or next to nothing about his own cou ...more
Ho fatto una certa fatica ad arrivare in fondo, non tanto per mancanza di interesse per gli argomenti trattati, ma forse proprio per il contrario: anche se forse di primo acchito potrebbe apparire una lettura "tranquilla", a ben guardare vengono raccontati tantissimi fatti, peraltro di portata enorme, e alla fine di ogni capitoletto/reportage, per quanto breve potesse essere, non riuscivo a non fare una sosta anche di svariati giorni.
Kobe Bryant
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
I would've quit the first time my life was threatened
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“I was waiting for them to set me on fire, because UPGA was burning many people alive. I had seen the burnt corpses. The boss at this roadblock popped me one in the face and I felt a warm sweetness in my mouth. Then he poured benzene on me, because here they burn people in benzene: it guarantees complete incineration.”

This was Kapuscinski recalling the time when he was stopped at a second successive roadblock in the Congo. He narrowly escaped the Spray and lite method also known as the UPGA cand
Oct 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Kapuscinski is one of my favorites. his delectable blend of journalism and travelouge captures the places and moments he inhabits with precision and acuteness. the soccer war is a collection of stories from his wide ranging journeyings as a reporter, these being the experiences behind his official dispatches.

The title comes from a short absurd war fought between honduras and el salvador - stemming from a particularly heated soccer rivalry - of which kapuscinski found himself in the frontlines.
Bob Newman
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mankind kicks endless own goals

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 in 2000, I didn't get around to reading it till 2005. 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 overpopul
Apr 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kapuscinski es bueno, siempre; pero en este libro hay algunas crónicas más flojas que lo dejaron en un libro intermedio.

Siempre me ha gustado desde la posición que escribe Kapuscinski y me parece que entendió muy bien Africa y así me la explica (yo que nunca he ido) pero no me parecieron tan atindas sus crónicas de América Latina, como que la "entendió" menos o quizás, simplemente, seamos más quisquillosos con lo que nos es cercano.

Muy buenas crónicas en la primera parte y me gustaron especialm
Vicky Pinpin-Feinstein
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
In my quest to read all of Kapuscinski's books, this is the latest I've completed. It was first published in the 1980s and in it are short narratives of his time traveling various parts of the world as a journalist. The book is a mix of diary writing and reportage of the things he saw. Whether he was in Ghana, in the Congo, or in experiencing the soccer war between El Salvador and Honduras, one gets a sense that Kapuscinski is not only fearless, adventurous and sometimes roguish journalist but t ...more
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Some really interesting stories here, written in an immersive style of journalism. Tales from places as diverse as the DRC, Honduras and Somalia, places often forgotten by western journalism or told in a way that overlooks the human stories of every day life. Kapuscinski doesn’t. My only criticism would be that some of the reports (each is its own chapter) left me wanting a broader picture of the country and the editing of the book could have offered a more complete narrative in that sense, pair ...more
Daniel Esquivel
Aug 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book should have not been called The Soccer War, but anything else than this. I was looking for a book that would describe the events that triggered the war between these 2 Central American countries (El Salvador and Honduras) but it was not until page 157 that he tarts mentioning about this and only for a few pages.

I am sure he has good books and content but this was just like a diary...nothing more than that.

Again, if I was looking for chronicles then probably this is a good book to read
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  • Dzisiaj narysujemy śmierć
  • Kapuściński non-fiction
  • Zrób sobie raj
  • Modlitwa o deszcz
  • Fado
  • Biała gorączka
  • Białe. Zimna wyspa Spitsbergen
  • Izrael już nie frunie
  • Pamiętnik z Powstania Warszawskiego
  • Chienne de Guerre: A Woman Reporter Behind the Lines of the War in Chechnya
  • A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya
  • Zabójca z miasta moreli. Reportaże z Turcji
  • 1945. Wojna i pokój
  • Samsara. Na drogach, których nie ma
  • Zdążyć przed Panem Bogiem
  • My War Gone By, I Miss It So
  • Wanna z kolumnadą
  • Inny świat
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
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“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.” 1 likes
“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.” 1 likes
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