HEARTS and Hibs legends have joined the campaign to support a 13-year-old football star banned from playing in a national cup final because she is a girl.
Bathgate Academy pupil Alyshia Walker, inset, is Fauldhouse Foxes' Under-13s captain and top scorer, but because the Tesco Cup final takes place in England, it is governed by the English Football Association rules, which prevent girls being part of a boys team if they are over 11.
A petition has been launched in a bid to force the English FA to change its rules in time for the tournament, which takes place in Birmingham City's ground on May 22.
Support for Alyshia - who was named player of the match when her team won the final of the youth Scottish Cup to qualify for the national competition - is growing with the launch of an online petition.
Former Hearts captain Gary Mackay said: "She has been able to play up here in Scotland so why can't she go down to England to carry on and have another challenge?
"I can understand why there are rules in place as they get older but, at this age, she has shown she can play at a good standard against boys of that age and it must be a huge disappointment to her and her team.
"It's crazy that the rules are different border to border. The English FA have not come out of this looking good."
Former Hibs defender and BBC football pundit Craig Paterson said he could not believe this kind of discrimination still existed.
He said: "I didn't think this type of thing happened in the modern day. It seems such a shame, having worked so hard to reach a certain level, that she can't play in the finals.
"If you're made team captain, it's always a sign that you could well be the most valuable player in the team so I imagine her teammates will be hoping something happens to allow her to play."
Fauldhouse Foxes' management has been working with the Scottish Youth Football Association to try to get the decision overturned. They are also trying to persuade competition organiser Tesco to step in.
The English FA told the Evening News that, although it sympathises with Alyshia's situation, the rules are clear. However, there is a proposal to change the rule, which is being considered later this month, and if it is passed it could be effective from next season.
To sign the petition, visit www.petition.co.uk/let-alyshia-play