BAKU: The long-time happy link between Azerbaijan and English football is still alive and well.

Some 48 years after Azeri linesman Tofik Bakhramov confirmed England’s controversial third goal in the 1966 World Cup Final win over West Germany so Manchester United have signed a partnership with the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan and Bakcell to help develop grassroots football in the country.

In 1966 Azerbaijan was one of the republics of the Soviet Union so Bakhramov earned legend status, among English fans at least, as “the Russian linesman.”

As for the sponsorship, the AFFA will become United’s only official football federation and football development partner and will see club sponsor Bakcell collaborate to promote and develop youth football in Azerbaijan.

The Manchester United Soccer School supported by AFFA and Bakcell, will see Azerbaijani children learn to play the ‘United Way’ with Soccer Schools coaches specially trained to teach the philosophy that drives the twenty-time English champions.

Manchester United’s group managing director, Richard Arnold said: “This exciting initiative will link the Club to a national football federation for the first time. Azerbaijan is a burgeoning football nation and is home to over a million Manchester United followers, so founding this relationship with the help of our friends at Bakcell is a fantastic development.

Manchester United is synonymous for developing some of the best young talent, and through this new relationship we can help by lending this expertise to a whole new generation of footballers.”

AFFA president Rovnag Abdullayev said: “The commencement of the Manchester United Soccer School, with the support of Bakcell, in Baku is a pivotal event in the country’s footballing history.

“I hope the work to be done by Manchester United Soccer School in Azerbaijan will have a positive effect in a short time span, and children that study here will be able to contribute to the future of Azerbaijani football.”