Football legend Rose Reilly deems MBE ‘cherry on the cake’ of glittering career

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The gong will be added to a medal haul including eight Serie A titles, four Italian Cups, and a world championship.

Rose Reilly with Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland’s most successful female footballer has given away most of her countless trophies, but she will be keeping a tight hold of the MBE she was awarded in the New Year Honours list.

Rose Reilly, 64, will add her gong to her eight Serie A titles, four Italian Cups, and a world championship medal – most of which she has passed on to fans.

But she said the MBE will take pride of place in the home she shares with her husband and 19-year-old daughter in Stewarton, East Ayrshire.

Recalling the moment she learned she was to be honoured, Mrs Reilly told the PA news agency: “My first reaction was I went up to the cemetery to tell my mum and dad.

“I was so proud – proud for them.”

  • Eight Serie A titles
  • Four Italian Cups
  • Two Serie A Golden Boots
  • One French League Title
  • One world championship

She added that she had struggled to keep the news a secret.

“I was nearly doing somersaults. I was walking about beaming, smiling at people in Stewarton I didn’t even know,” she said.


When she broke the news to her Argentinian husband, he started crying.

“I was very happy because it was for us women from Scotland, for women’s football generally.”

At the age of 17, Mrs Reilly left her Ayrshire home to become a professional footballer in Europe.

After winning the league with Reims in France, she moved to AC Milan and picked up two titles at the club.


During her time in Italy she was twice the Serie A Golden Boot winner, scoring 43 goals for Catania and 45 for Lecce.

“We had crowds of up to 20,000 at our games. It was followed because we were good,” she said.

Despite her success, a ban imposed by “faceless men in suits” in Scotland’s football governing bodies meant she would turn out for the Italian national team.

Scotland’s loss was Italy’s gain as the team won the Mundialito, a precursor to the World Cup.

But she added: “It was always a Scottish heart that was beating under an Italian jersey.

Mrs Reilly said the MBE would be good for women, and good for women’s football.

“It’s usually our male counterpart that get the honours, not so much us. So it has come at a good time,” she said. “I’ll pick it up for them as well.”

She added: “I never looked for honours. I played football because of the love, the passion I’ve got for it. I used to pass my honours on to a fan or a friend. I’ve not got the trophies. But being inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame – that was the one trophy. If I hadn’t had all the other trophies I wouldn’t be in there.

“I worked hard for it. I didn’t just have talent – I trained twice a day, on my own, just to better myself. Talent is not enough.”

She added that while the MBE is a great honour, she cannot say it is the best, as the best is “every one” of her trophies.

“Every victory is a victory, but this is the cherry on the cake. I’m holding on to this one.”

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