How Toto's 'Africa' became part of New England fans' halftime tradition

With four minutes remaining during halftime at Gillette Stadium, a familiar beat fills the night air, flags begin to wave and the supporters in The Fort begin to sway.

By the time Toto’s “Africa” hits its peaking chorus, the crowd is in full throat, seemingly serenading the team back to the field for the final 45 minutes of the match.

The ‘80s hit pop song became a bit of a phenomenon for the club and their supporters back in the summer of 2014, just as the Revolution were about to make a long run to the MLS Cup Final.

Despite some supporters feeling that it may gone the way of “Sweet Caroline” at Fenway Park, its continued reverence is due in large part to that run.

“As weird as it is for Toto to becoming a rallying cry for anybody, it just became something for all of us to rally around,” said Matt Puglise, a member of The Rebellion supporter’s group. “For a minute you can escape back to the time when we were making a big run. ... It’s part of the reason it has carried on for a long time, is people enjoy remembering those moments that we had during that run.”

The tradition began in July of 2014 as Abby Thelin, Director of Game Operations at Gillette Stadium, allowed Revs Marketing Manager Dave Campopiano the opportunity to make one halftime request.

That song has bellowed over the stadium’s PA system at every halftime since, and has even been sung on the road by roving supporters.

“When it happens, it’s always the most random thing that ends up taking off,” Thelin told back in 2014.

While the club’s successful run that year helped give the song longevity with the supporters, it was the tinge of guilty pleasure that helped it stick in the first in the first place.

“In my opinion I think it’s one of those things that is kind of like a secret shame for everybody. It’s kind of a song that everyone loves, but they don’t like to admit that they love it,” said Puglise. “So when everybody looked around and saw that everybody else was singing it, it was okay.”

Now that random song played on that random night has marinated into an unofficial anthem.

A song that hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart back in 1982, long before many of those who come to Gillette were even born, has now become ingrained in the history of the club.

And though some may feel that it maybe has run its course, as it evokes a time that has since been unmatched on the pitch, you’d be hard-pressed to convince the majority of fans to stop with this tradition.

“Honestly, I think that it won’t (die down),” Puglise said. “It’s become a reminder of being with the Revs, being with the supporters, hanging out with your friends and having a good time. ... If it brings up good memories, why should it die?”

“Where else are you going to be comfortably be able to sing Toto’s 'Africa', and not be judged by everyone else?”