The Eighth Kilometre District Stadium in Baku hosted a five-day training camp led by qualified Manchester United FC coaches this summer. The result of an official partnership with the English champions, the Football with Bakcell programme was a new venture in Azerbaijani grassroots football.
For the camp in Baku, 32 talented children from five regions of Azerbaijan – including the cities of Ganja, Mingachevir, Lankaran, Sumqayit and Baku – were selected to take part. They were picked from more than 1,000 boys and girls who had participated in scouting sessions led by professional coaches from the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA).
The chosen 32 – who were aged between eight and 12 – proceeded to join in training sessions run by Manchester United Soccer Schools coaches Carl Wild and Paul Gray from 24 to 28 June.
The aim of the joint initiative between the AFFA and local mobile communications company Bakcell was to give the most talented of the children the chance to go on a longer training camp in Manchester. Six youngsters were eventually able to make the trip in August. Their programme included visits to Old Trafford, the Manchester United Football Academy and the club's training ground.
A media conference at the end of the preparatory part of the initiative – including the scouting sessions, training camp and final selections – was attended by Elkhan Mammadov, the AFFA's general secretary; former United defender Denis Irwin; Aynur Abjhanova, marketing director of Bakcell; and parents and coaches of the children involved in the camp.
Mammadov praised the venture, saying: "This is a great project. Over the last two weeks, eight to 12-year-olds have participated in the selection process in Mingachevir, Ganja, Lankaran, Sumqayit and Baku, and the most talented have been picked for the training camp. The sessions in Baku were organised and led by coaches from Manchester United. The key feature of the selection process was its fairness."
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