Phil Babb to make his debut at Aviva stadium for Sean Cox fundraiser
Liverpool legend will play in support of fan left brain damaged after Anfield assault
Phil Babb: ‘Football is the global sport that allows people to put their differences aside and rally together when they need to. This is one of those causes because what happened to Sean was so tragic.’ Photograph: Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images
Almost a decade after the place was redeveloped, Phil Babb will be one of the Liverpool and Ireland veterans making his debut at the Aviva stadium on Friday evening as former players from both sides line out to raise money for the Sean Cox Rehabilitation Fund (kick-off 7.45).
“It will be nice to be able to pass the ball without worrying about it disappearing into a hole or being deflected off course by a cowpat,” said the 48-year-old with a laugh.
The game, along with Thursday night’s gala dinner, will provide a huge boost to the fund established to provide ongoing support to Cox, who suffered a serious brain injury when he was assaulted outside Anfield ahead of a Champions League game against Roma last April.
“There’s a very human side to this story,” said Babb after arriving back into Dublin for the game on Thursday, “and football is the global sport that allows people to put their differences aside and rally together when they need to. This is one of those causes because what happened to Sean was so tragic.
“My partner was 100 yards down the road when it happened and it could have been her, it could have been someone’s son; it was such an unprovoked attack. We do what we can to help him because the road to rehabilitation is going to be a long one, but the more people who turn up tomorrow night and give their support, the more help the game will be to the cause.”
Kenny Dalglish and Mick McCarthy will manage the Liverpool and Ireland teams respectively and Babb is one of a handful of players, along with the likes of Robbie Whelan, Jason McAteer and John Aldridge, who will feature for both teams over the course of the evening.
It was announced last weekend that Sean Cox will attend the game
“I’ve done loads of broadcasting there [the Aviva],” said Babb, “but I’ve not been on the pitch. It’s going to be interesting.”
Almost 25,000 tickets have been sold for the match at this stage, according to the FAI, which has assembled a squad that includes Robbie Keane, Kevin Kilbane and Damien Duff.
It was announced last weekend that Sean Cox will attend the game. “It’s going to be emotional for us and for his family,” said Babb.
Another cause set to benefit from the occasion is the Simon Community, who will receive all of the food collected outside the ground by Fans Supporting Foodbanks (FSF), originally an initiative by members of the Blue Union and Spirit of Shankley supporters’ clubs, a number of whom are travelling over to Dublin for the occasion thanks to the assistance of Irish Ferries.
“We wanted the organisation to be there to show our support for Sean Cox and we wanted to do our bit too,” said Dave Kelly of FSF. “An underlying principle of Fans Supporting Foodbanks is that whatever is taken in at games is distributed locally, and so the collection at the Aviva will be going to the Simon Community afterwards.
The group’s distinctive purple van will be parked just off Shelbourne Road on the route to Gates V to Z.
Tickets for the game are available at ticketmaster.ie/LFC and people can make a donation at supportsean.com.