ALTHOUGH not a particularly well known fact, women have been participating in sport for a very long time and yet for so many people it may seem as if it has only just been invented.

Indeed, some people think of it as a new phenomenon that can be traced back perhaps only as far as the 70s, but that’s not really the case.

I attended an exhibition at Glasgow’s Six Foot Gallery entitled The First Ladies of Football earlier this week. The exhibition is documenting the history of women’s football and believe it or not, women have been playing football for some time. In fact, they can date it as far back as 1895.

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This particular exhibition, which is the brainchild of Stuart Gibbs, was debuted at the Hampden Football Museum in 2012, before being further developed in association with Dumfries Museum into A Game for Girls, which opened at the Annan Museum during the summer of 2015.

Stuart told me that in the past, the history of woman’s football was a rather under-researched subject, but believes that there has been a revolution in the subject with more of the game’s background being uncovered. As the women’s game is steadily progressing, our understanding of the game’s heritage is also starting to catch up.

One of the most interesting finds is the discovery that Emma Clarke, born in 1875 in Liverpool, who is the first recorded black woman footballer, played in Scotland.

She toured Scotland as part of the British Ladies Club in 1895 and again in 1896, which clearly shows that women participating in football created a welcoming environment for all, even as far back as the 1890s.

We have our own history makers in football in Scotland. Rose Reilly, Elsie Cook and Edna Nellis are the top three for me and they blazed the trail for women to play football many years ago.

Rose in particular made the headlines by playing for the Italian national team in the first, sometimes referred to as the “unofficial”

World Cup.

In fact, Rose was the team captain and scored in the 3–1 win over West Germany in the northern Italian town of Caorle.

She then led her naturalised country into the World Cup Final in 1983 when they beat the USA 3-1 in front of 90,000 people in Peking, now known as Beijing.

Add to that the eight Serie A titles she earned with AC Milan, as well as two golden boot awards, and I am sure you will agree with me, Rose was indeed a history maker.

Elsie, on the other hand, made her mark on the domestic game and she was the inaugural secretary of the Scottish Women’s Football Association, as well as managing the Scotland team, whilst all the time, and even now, still insisting that women players should be afforded the same opportunities, rights and respect as their male counterparts.

However, if you ask Elsie what her biggest achievement was, she would tell you a kiss from Pele in 1966 when he was in Troon before Brazil played Scotland in a World Cup warm-up match, and in return she gave him a tartan “see you Jimmy” hat!

Edna Nellis passed away just last year at 62 years of age, and her story is no less inspiring, as both Rose and her shared the journey to France and then Italy to play professional football together at Stade de Reims in France and AC Milan in Serie A in the early 1970s; she was a trailblazer.

This exhibition got me thinking that today, with the many changes and advances of women in sport, we are creating history at an amazing speed, and also on a regular basis, and we have to ensure that it is well documented.

I am positive that in 20 years’ time, people will be looking back in wonder at the struggle many women had just to participate in sport, never mind gaining parity, and the achievements of women such as Rose, Elsie and Edna will be even more admirable.

There is still a lot of gaps in the history of the beautiful game for women, and I can only hope that this is something which will be rectified with both time and patience.