ALMOST half a century too late, recognition is finally arriving for Rose Reilly. A much-trailed documentary detailing the life of this extraordinary trailblazer in women’s football – who lifted the forerunner of the current World Cup for Italy whilst banned sine die by the SFA - will be screened tonight on the BBC.

On Tuesday night at Hampden, first minister Nicola Sturgeon presented her with the cap she should have received for the role she played in Scotland’s first-ever women’s match, a 3-2 defeat against the Auld Enemy down at Ravenscraig Stadium in Greenock in 1972.

Pretty much the only thing the blazers haven’t found for her is an aeroplane seat and a match ticket to witness Scotland’s women make their official World Cup debut against England again in Nice this Sunday. An official written apology for banning her in the first place might also be an idea. “Don’t say that,” Reilly says. “I might get banned again!

"No, it doesn’t matter if I am not there in person,” she added. “I will be cheering the girls on from in front of the telly.”

Reilly’s tale is remarkable, so remarkable she was back in Greenock a fortnight ago, re-enacting that match for the benefits of Fifa. Ostensibly banned by the SFA for having the temerity to play professionally in an era where football was officially regarded in this country as a male-only pastime, her palmares alone tell the story. When Rose retired at 40 - to open up a sports shop, meet her husband and have a daughter - she had won eight Serie A titles, a French title and four Italian Cups.

In the 1978-79 season she even won concurrent championships in both Italy and France, playing for Lecce on a Saturday night then flying to France to play for Reims on Sunday afternoons. No wonder Sandy Bryson’s predecessor in the SFA’s registrations department’s came out in a cold sweat.

“It is ridiculous, isn’t it?” jokes Reilly. “No wonder they banned me.”

All joking aside, Reilly is remarkably sanguine about the injustices which fuelled her past life. This product of Stewarton was delighted to receive her cap from first minister Sturgeon on Tuesday night in Mount Florida [“Two Ayrshire lassies!” she says] and a little bit miffed that she never bumped into Steve Clarke, who hails from nearby Saltcoats.

To the best of her memory, she never got to play at Hampden [“maybe once there was an exhibition on it, but certainly not Hampden as it is now,”] but in truth what strikes you most is the LACK of anger she feels towards the dinosaurs who kept the women’s game hidden for so long. Instead, her main emotion is relief and delight that this current group of players are finally being allowed to share the limelight with their male counterparts, even if the media glare they receive this fortnight will be hard to sustain.

“There is absolutely no anger, no regret, nothing like that,” says Reilly. “Everything happens for a reason. I had the career I had because Scotland banned me basically. I’ve said it many times, there was always a Scottish heart beating under an Italian jersey. I was carrying the name of Scotland abroad.

“I didn’t say anything at all about the SFA," she added. "I can only speak for myself but when I got sine died I was in Italy, there was no communication. I didn’t even know until my friend Elsie [Cook, the Scotland manager, who also got banned], told me. We didn’t have phones in those days, so she wrote me a letter. I was like ‘what is this, I haven’t done anything’. They didn’t want us to play but I was playing, that was it. They weren’t going to stop me from playing.

“I've never had a formal apology,” she added. “It was just faceless men. Nothing was ever written down. But Ian Maxwell [the SFA chief executive] was actually very good this week. He made a speech in front of us, basically apologising and saying better late than never. I don’t go looking for apologies. This kind of thing will never happen again but I just want to help the growth of women’s football. We still need more women involved – within the SFA itself.

“I don’t know if the current team know my story to the full extent but I am sure some of them might be watching it on Sunday night, just to see the history and the obstacles we had to go through to get Scottish football acknowledged at least.”

If times - thankfully - have just about moved on in Scotland, France was ahead of its time. Reims, where Reilly arrived in 1973, is in the heart of France’s champagne region and let’s just say she was offered plenty of bubbly in recognition of her efforts. This was a club where Raymond Kopa, three times a European Cup winner alongside the likes of Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano at Real Madrid, had made the men’s side one of the teams to beat during the 1960s.

“I remember when I flew in at the time they had a bottle of champagne waiting for us at the airport,” Reilly recalls. “I was with Stan Shivas, the Daily Record features editor or whatever he was at the time, and he dropped the bottle. I visited the vineyards a lot, they were up in the hills.

“But one of the best things I ever did when I was coming back from Italy to France, the President of Stade de Reims took me to the Adidas factory and said ‘just pick what you want’,” recalls Reilly. “All the Adidas gear, tracksuits, shoes and boots I wanted. I liked that kind of stuff more than the champagne.”

Reilly had moved on to Italy by the time she helped that nation to the Mundialito, an invitational event which goes down as a forerunner to this current World Cup, which was only inaugurated by Fifa in1991. The crowds in those days were small, but enthusiastic.

“In that particular stadium, I think there was about 10-15,000 fans, but it was full to capacity,” says Reilly. “Would I have liked to have played in this era? That is a question I can’t really answer. My love of the game was so fierce, such a passion that I still have. I am just pleased for the girls now that they are getting what they are getting. That is it.

“The thing is, they need to invest money in the league in Scotland,” she added. “If there is no growth here in the league it is going to keep the players at a certain level. I guess it is like the men’s game that way – the big money is down in England or abroad. We are kind of lagging behind. But men’s football I think is in dire straits because of that just because of the funding. If players are getting £80,000 down there, but only £20,000 up here, it is a no-brainer.”

Reilly is right to look to the future of women’s football in this country. Because it is very bright indeed. With talents like Kim Little, Erin Cuthbert and Caroline Weir around, she is bullish about Scotland’s chances of upsetting the applecart in France this summer. Shelley Kerr made an immediate impression.

“I’ve spoken to Shelley a few times,” says Reilly. “I admire her enthusiasm. I met her in about 2002. She was playing for Kilmarnock against Ross County at the time. I remember it because Julie Fleeting was playing for Ross County at the time because her husband Colin [Stewart] was the goalkeeper with the men’s team.

“Anyway, after it, Elsie said to me there was this wee lassie that wants to meet you and it was Shelley, she came sprinting over with a big grin on her face," Reilly added. "She was asking me all these questions about Italy. I thought ‘she’ll go somewhere’. Because she is a sponge and intelligent people are like that absorb everything that is going on around them

“Shelley is like that. She has got the passion, but she has also got the knowledge. She coached Arsenal Ladies to many successes. Also coaching the guy’s team at Stirling. So I’ve got great faith in Shelley but Kim Little is the heart of the team, she makes everything tick over while Erin Cuthbert scored a goal to be proud of on Tuesday night. If it was a guy, it would maybe have got more accolades than it did.”

Scotland have found a group of death including England, Japan and Argentina, but don’t bet against them going one better than the men ever did and reaching the knockout stages. “I think it is a good unit, I don’t think they peaked on Tuesday night but you don’t want them to peak before the World Cup,” says Reilly. “The main thing is ‘you don’t lose your first game’. That is usually the key to it. Unfortunately, our first game is against England but the way they are going on, you would have thought they had already won the World Cup. As per usual.”