International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on advances in gender equality, recognize the work still to be done and celebrate the achievements of women around the world.

Elsie Cook, from Stewarton, was Scotland women’s team manager and secretary of the Scottish Women’s Football Association. Through her various endeavors she played a key role in the institutionalization of the Scottish Women’s Association.

Elsie, 76, said: “I first fell in love with football in 1960, aged 13, after watching my first game at Kilmarnock FC Rugby Park. When I saw Captain Frank Beattie dictating the game in the middle of the park, I was blown away.”

After that, Elsie decided that she wanted to play for herself. Coincidentally, her mother, who was an avid humanitarian herself and had received an MBE from the Queen, was asked if she could start a girls’ soccer team for a charity soccer match.

Elsie’s mother and netball coach Betty Bennett asked 14-year-old Elsie to help her start Stewarton Thistle Ladies Football Club.

Elsie said: “Our first match was with East Kilbride’s Holyrood Bumbees. We borrowed strips and begged for boots, but this match was a real eye opener. I played middle half, my mom was right half and my two aunts played full-backs.

“We were also told about a girl named Susan Ferries who was 17 years old. Their technical skills were outstanding and they showed that women and girls can play football. In the end we won the game 7-0 and Susan scored all 7 points.

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