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 during war. The Soccer War is a singular work of journalism.
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.