Rose Reilly was a trailblazer for women’s football, forging a spectacular career that saw her become a world champion with her adopted country.
Born in Kilmarnock in 1955 and brought up in Ayrshire, Rose joined a local boys’ club aged seven and eventually found success at local amateur sides. A gifted athlete, she also excelled at pentathlon and at 16 was picked in the Scotland training squad for the Edinburgh 1970 Commonwealth Games.
However, she decided to forgo the athletics track for the football field, moving to French professional ladies' side Reims when she was 17. After six months in France, Rose signed for AC Milan, where she played for the women's professional team for four years, winning two league titles in the process.
Successful spells at Catania and Lecce followed over the next two decades, and in 1978-79 she won championship titles in both Italy and France, playing for Lecce on a Saturday night before flying to France to play for Reims on Sunday afternoons.
However, it was on the international stage where she enjoyed her career highlight. Despite having played 10 times for her native Scotland, she was selected to captain Italy in the then unofficial women’s world cup in 1984, scoring in a 3-1 win over Germany in the final. She was also voted the Italian team’s best player.
She captained Italy 13 times before finally hanging up her boots at 40, by which time she’d won eight Serie A league crowns, four Italian Cups and a French title. She also won two Golden Boots in 1978 and 1981, scoring 43 and 45 goals respectively.
In 2007, she was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame and became the first female recipient of a PFA Scotland Merit Award in 2011. The following year, her portrait took centre stage at a new Scottish Football Museum exhibition, celebrating 130 years of women's football in Scotland. Rose was awarded an MBE in the 2020 New Year Honours for services to women's football.
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