A feature film in honor of women’s football pioneer Rose Reilly
The remarkable story of Rose Reilly, who left her native Ayrshire when she was just 17 and was voted Best Player in the World, is set to become a major feature film.
Chris Young, one of Scotland’s leading film and television producers, is working with Reilly and Lorna Martin, the author of a recent play about his footballing exploits to bring his story to the big screen.
The film, due to go into production this summer, will explore Reilly’s incredible rise in Italian football, where she won eight league titles, four Italian cups and was twice crowned ‘golden boot’.
At her peak in 1983, she captained the Italian national team for a World Cup victory over the United States in front of a crowd of 90,000 in China.
However, Reilly’s efforts went almost unrecognized for decades in Scotland, where football authorities had banned her for life while she was pursuing a career abroad.
Reilly, who was belted at school and expelled for playing football with boys, left for France after her country was the only one in Europe to refuse to recognize women’s football as a professional sport.
Reilly’s achievements weren’t officially recognized until 2007 when she was inducted into the official Scottish Football Hall of Fame, but she was still largely unknown until a BBC documentary Alba in 2019.
Martin started working on a play after receiving the documentary from theater director Maureen Carr. It was postponed by the pandemic, but Martin began working on the script during the lockdown after sending the script to a number of producers.
Young, who immediately returned to Martin to express his interest in a film about the footballer, acquired the film rights to Reilly’s life story after meeting with her several times to discuss the project.
Young said, “I hadn’t heard of Rose Reilly at all until Lorna sent me her piece. About three minutes after reading it, I had decided I wanted to make a movie.
“It was an absolutely amazing story and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard from Rose.
“She completely put two fingers up on everyone and won the World Cup, for god’s sake. You couldn’t make it up.
Young, who is best known as the producer of The Inbetweeners, is currently making a feature film on the Isle of Lewis.
The British Film Institute (BFI), one of the backers of the drama Silent Roar, which takes place in the Hebrides, is contributing to the development of the film Rose Reilly.
He added: “I want him to capture the boldness, the joy and the incredible wit of a 17 year old who has been told by everyone that what she wants to do is not welcome in this country, and his bravery in leaving Scotland.
“I want to do something that encourages young women, not just in Scotland but everywhere, to do what they want to do with their lives and encourage anyone with a dream to follow it.
“But I want to make a film that also rocks and pokes fun at the football authorities in Scotland and shames everyone who has allowed themselves to line up with them.”
Reilly said: “From day one there were obstacles in my path, there were physical punishments and I had no safe haven. I just decided to fight with my love and passion for the game.
“I wasn’t doing anything wrong and I didn’t know why everyone wanted to stop me. But there was no way to stop me, obviously.”
Martin, co-creator of the comedy television series Women on the Verge, said: “It’s such a powerful, inspiring and long overdue story. She has had incredible success, but has faced so much sexism and misogyny in Scotland.
“She just refused to accept what she was told over and over again – that soccer was not a game for girls.
“Back then, if they wanted to play soccer, they were considered a freak, a nutcase or an aberration. Rose had this incredible strength of character – she seemed to just be born to play soccer.”
Reilly took center stage again last month when Martin’s play was performed at Oran Mor in Glasgow and at the Traverse Theater in Edinburgh.
She said: “I thought the idea for a movie was a bit crazy at first. But I also thought the idea of doing a play about someone playing football was crazy. I thought it would be too hard to do, but I hadn’t realized how good Lorna was as a writer.
“I went to see the play a lot – I was totally engrossed in it and I also wanted to support the actress, Christina Strachan, who was absolutely phenomenal. Every time I went to see him, I would go out after the show. She took so much of my features.
“There was a lot of laughter, but there was also a lot of crying, especially about the unfairness of it all.”
Martin adds: “The current scenario focuses on the period when she is pretty much forced out of Scotland.
“Scotland doesn’t want her and has nothing for her. She is a teenager who embarks on the adventure of her life to follow this dream that she has.
Reilly, a member of Scotland’s first women’s international team, was honored at Hampden in 2019 when she received a commemorative cap from Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, 47 years after facing England.
Reilly added: “In all areas, if we don’t have a voice where decisions are made, nothing changes and you only get token gestures.
“I have never been mad at anyone in the Scottish Football Association. I just got started. If anyone has a problem with me, it’s their problem. I don’t waste time with them.
“But the SFA is one of the slowest football authorities in Europe, maybe even the world, to advance women’s football. We are always catching up.