This article was brought to you by Football's Finest as part of The Away End. Founded by Brad Jones, Football's Finest hosts an outstanding collection of contributors to produce a wealth of fascinating in-depth features as part of incisive monthly adaptations of football's finest cultures.
Over the course of the beautiful game there has been some intriguing career paths, both at a club and at international level. Stories such as the Boateng brothers, who chose to represent both Germany and Ghana respectively, and Dejan Stankovic, who is the only player to ever represent three different nations at three separate World Cup finals.
However, there is one player whose career path is one lesser known but equally as impressive, and it is that of Rose Reilly.
Rose Reilly (now Rose Peralta through marriage) is one of the most successful footballers to ever come from Scotland. Boasting titles from Italy, Scotland and France, two Serie A golden boots and a World Cup.
Though all her achievements are of course incredible, the thing about her career that is so remarkable is that she won that World Cup with Italy, as their captain.
So how did a woman from Kilmarnock, Scotland, with no family ties or relations to Italy, end up as the captain of Le Azzurre?
As a youth, Reilly was an exceptional talent who played for the local boys team, she was only allowed to do so if she cut her hair and call herself ‘Ross’.
Her ability attracted scouts from a variety of teams including Glasgow giants Celtic, however, in the 1970s there was no possible way for a woman to play professional football. And when the scouts found out that ‘Ross’ was in fact Rose they deferred their interest elsewhere. This led to Rose Reilly pursuing her dream of playing professional football elsewhere.
Her next stop was to France to turn out for the women’s team of Reims, where she won a league title which in turn attracted the attention of Italian giants AC Milan, which is where her career really took off.
The Scottish FA, whose rules against women playing at the time had forced her abroad, were less than impressed by Reilly and her move to the continent to play professionally. In 1975, she received news that the Scottish FA had banned her from playing for the Scottish national team after just ten caps for her nation.
Reilly didn’t let this unfair ruling slow her down as she went on to win two league titles with AC Milan before moving to Catania where, in 1978, she won her first golden boot with 43 goals in all competitions.
Her next golden boot was won with her next club Lecce in 1981 where she accumulated an impressive 45 goals in all competitions. It was during her time at Lecce that the call from her former club Reims came through asking her to return to France. So she did, while still playing for Lecce.
She would turn out for Lecce on a Saturday before flying to France to play for Reims on a Sunday, she went on to win a title in both France and Italy that year.
From that point, Reilly went on to play for Napoli, Fiorentina and Trani before her retirement at age 40. There was no doubt she had enjoyed an incredible club career, but as previously mentioned, this remarkable footballer went one step further on the international stage.
Her international career began following the aforementioned ban from the Scottish national side in 1975.
The president of the Italian women’s football federation wanted to make Reilly an Azzurre player, she was offered the chance to marry a citizen of Italy to gain citizenship in which she turned down, but they eventually found a way to adopt her as an Italian national.
She went on to play 22 games for the nation scoring 13 including an infamous goal in the victory over the US women’s national team to win the World Cup. Not to mention she did it in front of 90,000 people in China’s national football stadium.
The life and career of Rose Reilly is an astonishing one and has led to her becoming one of the trailblazers in women’s football both in Scotland and the UK.
Throughout her career and after her retirement she has spoken out and defied those who oppose or limit the growth and development of the women’s game.
The Scottish women’s side who qualified for the World Cup in France in 2019, managed by Shelly Kerr, was Scotland’s first ever Women’s World Cup.
Reilly showed her delight, saying: “I am excited for them, not envious. It is a great achievement now the men are actually acknowledging us. I am not sure if they are acknowledging us because there’s more money being pumped into the game from FIFA/UEFA. They [the women] are more than paying their way. Also, the men’s team is not doing well. It’s high time the women’s team got recognised”.
Deservedly, Rose Reilly has been inducted to the Scottish Hall of Fame in 2007 and has a portrait of herself in the Scottish football museum at Hampden Park. She was also named on the Queen’s New Year Honours list at the end of 2019, in which she was awarded an MBE.
It is safe to say that Rose Reilly is one of Scotland’s sporting greats, but her achievements in and for Italy make her more than a notable player in the sporting history of the nation.