One of the earliest photographs of me as a toddler is taken in the garden. I’m around three years old, wearing a woollen hat that’s tied tightly under my chin. I’m smiling warmly towards the lens, holding a football tightly in my arms.
Many years ago, I slid the black and white photograph into the edge of a picture frame on my kitchen wall, pushing it tightly into the narrow space. There it remained in place, curling at the edges. I enjoyed looking at it but at some point I must have stopped glancing in its direction because I recently noticed it is no longer there. I don’t know how long it has been absent or if I moved it somewhere else but regardless of its physical whereabouts I do know for sure that it has resonance today.
Rose Reilly’s story begins with a similar narrative but my goodness me how it evolved! As a three year old, when given a doll for Christmas, she swiftly swapped it for a football and, just in case anyone snatched her dream from her, she took the ball with her everywhere, holding it tightly to her chest, (I imagine exactly like me in my photograph) even sleeping with this thing of beauty that meant the world to her. In fact, football, the game and the associated lifestyle it created, would actually become her world. Whilst my physical relationship with football petered out, Rose Reilly’s football story was just beginning, culminating in a World Cup goal and victory, multiple championship titles and national cups, golden boots, and the mantle of the best footballer in the world, all achieved in Italy, and closer to home, induction into the Scottish Sports and Scottish Football Hall of Fame.
Rose’s story in utterly fascinating and that’s why I’m directing and writing a feature-length documentary film about her extraordinary life. And it is an extra ordinary life. Rose achieved her dreams but the process was a constant struggle, from her earliest days she faced an ongoing battle against gender discrimination; a crippling sexist agenda constantly striving to crush her ambitions and extinguish her dreams. Why? Because she was a woman.
Women were supposed to be confined by their bodies, to be called out as imposters if they dared to penetrate the areas of perceived male preserve. However, every time her heart slowed at a barrier before her, she transgressed, rendering the reaction immobile as she carved her own powerful angles into unfamiliar spaces. She sculpted a life and she lived it, despite the obstacles, some of which were cruel and physically traumatic, others mentally crippling.
She is a pioneer. A feminist whose lived experience should help propel us through life as women, unafraid to challenge pernicious interventions in the areas we wish to travel.
For the tiniest snapshot in life, as three year old girls in different time zones, Rose and I were treading a similar path but our narratives diverged, the crumbling mud of our footprints spreading along different routes, the earth spilling in alternate directions.
I’m excited though that we’ve both circled back, and as determined women, we’re staring into our pictures, past and present, working together to tell Rose’s powerful story.