ROSE Reilly was Scotland's first female soccer professional. She limped out of the game with her 40th birthday and several marriage proposals behind her. In a career spanning more than 25 years she played internationally for both Scotland and Italy. She was the leading goalscorer in Serie A, netting 45 times in one season, and played before crowds of up to 90,000.

Had she been a man, Reilly would have filled acres of newsprint these past two decades. She would be living on investment income, and banking a six-figure TV pundit's salary, yet the transfer fees, perks, and percentages of the men's game are an alien world to her: no share portfolio or fat bank account; no tax adviser or business manager.

''Me? Worth a fortune? Absolutely not.'' She laughs at the thought. ''I sold my wee sports shop in Trani a few years back, but I have a lot of happy memories. I enjoyed every minute and would not change a thing.

''Men's and women's football are completely different. The women's game does not bring in huge crowds like the men, or consequently, comparable money; 12,000 was as good as we got for club matches in Italy, but they are dropping now.'' A league club salary of #25,000-a-year was good when she was playing.

Reilly, from Stewarton, quit Scotland at 18, having played some 10 games for her country. She was banned sine die with two other girls, Edna Neillis and Elsie Cook, all three having had the temerity to speak out against the forelock-tugging subservience to men of the Scottish Women's FA. ''I can't even remember the details now,'' she says. ''I was so in love with the game, all I ever wanted to do was to play.''

She is currently home in Ayrshire, because her mum is ill. She has spent only the occasional holiday there in more than 25 years.

Reilly signed for Rennes, playing with the French champions for a season, and then effectively became Italian, a language she now speaks fluently.

Her clubs included Milan, Napoli, Prato, Bari, and Agilani, and she became the most successful female player in Serie A. She won eight first-division championship titles, numerous cup-winners' medals, and led the national scoring charts four times.

She was passed off for several years as Italian, playing 22 times for her adopted country and scoring 13 international goals. She played in China, in front of 90,000 fans and against Germany, Hungary, Sweden and Holland, among others.

''When the Italian anthem was played, the other girls used to sing God Save The Queen. I tried to teach them Scotland The Brave, but they couldn't get the hang of it, but it all came to an end when UEFA officially took over women's football.''

She rose most days at 5.30am and trained for two hours. ''I had to work out then, because I didn't close the shop until 9pm. Why did I quit? My age, for God's sake. Even the referees were beginning to look like wee boys.''

Football finally found her a husband.

''I'd several proposals, including two serious ones from guys who had never met me, and had only seen me play. The man I married is an Argentinian sports doctor, Norberto. I'd quit playing professionally, but got injured in a fun five-a-side.

''I went for treatment, and it was love at first sight. Now we have a 14-month old daughter, Meghan. You don't necessarily want to bring up your daughter in your own image, but Meghan saw this ball one day, walked up, and whacked it. Now she kicks with both feet.''

Meghan is also bi-lingual, and her dad, who is learning English, hopes to work here. Scotland's first female football export is ready to come home for good.