A STEWARTON woman has been recognised for the decades of dedication she has put into her sport.

Elsie Cook was welcomed to a meeting of East Ayrshire Council by depute provost Claire Leitch - where her "enormous contribution" to women's football was recognised.

Elsie has devoted much of her life to battling for women football players to have the same rights and respect as men. 

She made it her life’s mission to expand the game of football for girls and women of all ages after falling in love with football in 1960, when she was 13 years old and had just been to her first match at Rugby Park.

At a time when women were banned from playing football in Scotland because it was deemed unsuitable for females, Elsie was a real trailblazer. She worked tirelessly to reverse the ban, which was eventually lifted in 1974. 

Elsie also helped to found the Scottish Women’s Football Association in 1972 and organised the first official international women’s football game for Scotland's national team.

In 1974, she retired as secretary of the Scottish Women’s FA and became manager of the women’s national team. After a short stint in charge, she dedicated her time to expanding the game for girls.

Elsie has incredible stories about meeting Pele and the Brazilian men’s team and getting a call from Jock Stein, asking the women’s team to provide pre-match entertainment for a European Cup tie.

And Depute Provost Leitch said it was only right to recognise her outstanding contributions.

She said: “Elsie had led an incredible life and achieved so much for the world of women’s football. Women and girls in Scotland today get to enjoy playing the game just as much as men and they have people like Elsie, who was a real pioneer, to thank for this.

“It was a pleasure to present Elsie with her civic recognition certificate and to have the opportunity to thank her for all of her hard work and dedication over the years to make football a more inclusive sport.”

Laura McLaughlin, captain of Kilmarnock Women FC, added: “As a club, we were honoured to have the opportunity to celebrate Elsie’s magnificent contribution to our sport, not only within our local community, but across the global landscape of the women’s game.

“Pioneers like Elsie have given myself, my teammates and future players the right to play the game that we love, and that is a legacy that will never be forgotten."

The Depute Provost also presented Elsie with an Edinburgh crystal bowl as a memento.