Back of the Net Tribute to Fitba Legend Rose Reilly

Rose Reilly may be a name that trips easily off the tongue of many Scottish football fans but while the rest of the populace may have heard of  her male counterparts who were   giants in the game, this Scottish Amazon of fitba is disgracefully less well known. That imbalance was redressed somewhat when BBC Alba produced a superb documentary about this incredible woman. This play from Lorna Martin, that is  part of this season’s Play, Pie and Pint season at the Traverse,  shifts  the position even further.

Written with a sensitive ear for Scots language and dialect, the narrative brings to vibrant life Rose’s story of passion and tenacity. It relates her life growing up in Stewarton, Ayrshire in a big working class family when she had to play for a local boy’s club where she was spotted by a Celtic scout who mistook her for a boy. 

After she and her pal Edna moved to France aged just 17 to play for Reims, she was bought by AC Milan and went on to play for several Italian women’s teams, lifting multiple cups and titles over her career. 

At a time when Scotland was the only country in UEFA to continue its ban on women from playing football, it’s no wonder she felt she had a “Scottish heart beating under an Italian jersey” when she was selected to play for their national team when the SFA said, “Naw, ye cannae!” and went on to issue a lifetime ban to Rose for speaking out  on the issue. 

Her obstacles and victories are told with engaging vitality by Christina Strachan who totally inhabits the role with authenticity under Maureen Carr’s impressive direction.    As well as capturing Rose’s Ayrshire dialect, Strachan shifts easily through speaking French and Italian as well as going through a gamut of accents from Liverpudlian  footballer Ian Rush to the posh runner who tried to cheat Rose in a race  (where she also excelled) to cigar smoking Steve Chivas from the Daily Record. She is in full gallus mode as she breaks the 4th wall to the delight of the audience.

Like a pleasant warm up act, songs from strong female artists but including the highly emotional football anthem from Gerry and the Pacemakers as well as songs about crossing water like the Skye Boat Song and the hymn-like sounds of Bridge Over Troubled Water with the prophetic words ‘all your dreams are on their way’.

Rose Reilly, who is in the Scottish Football Hall of Fame alongside her male  counterparts from the world of football, had the  motto  ‘Don’t think – just do’.  After a generous roll call of Rose’s fellow women players who were also ‘pioneers and trailblazers’, the screen showing a big football pitch, that is part of the  simple yet effective set of a dressing room, switches to a set of multi screens showing Rose in present day inspiring young girls at the Rose Reilly Sports Centre in her home town of Stewarton in Ayrshire.  

The trio of creative women, Martin, Carr and Strachan, along with the rest of the PPP crew, has made a fitting tribute to a truly remarkable woman with this 50 minute gem.

Dates 28th September to 2nd October at 1pm

Age guidance 14+

Irene Brown

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