Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw : Paving the way for women in football

Stephanie Lyew

April 27, 2022

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The very beat of Khadija Shaw’s heart is forever synchronised with the youthful echoes of children in the community where she was raised as they played football in the streets. She watched as her brother played, longing to join in. And she did, a few times.

Shaw tells stories of her sneaking in and out of the house to kick the ball around without being discovered by her parents, and of the time she was caught. These memories of playing with the boys in the De La Vega community in Spanish Town, along with her recognition of her achievements as a source of inspiration to young women, kept this goal scoring sensation on the ball.

“Everyone knows by now that football is what I wanted to play, even when my mother thought the sport was just for boys. Every chance I got, I would play football in my community, but I never thought of it as a career. It was when I got to the US for college that I started to seriously think of football as a career option,” she told Flair.

The opportunity to play professionally for Jamaica presented itself when Shaw, affectionately called ‘Bunny’, was a 13-year-old student at the St Jago High School. She played for Jamaica’s Under-15 and then the Under-17 and Under-20 teams, before making her international debut in 2015 at the age of 18. Three years later, she was named Footballer of the Year by The Guardian, a British newspaper. She also ranked 80 in The Guardian’s 2019 list of top women footballers in the world.

Shaw has recorded an impressive 44 goals in 31 appearances for the Reggae Girlz, making her the island’s all-time leading goalscorer, surpassing Luton Shelton’s record of 35 goals. Currently based in England where she is training with and playing for Manchester City, to whom she is signed on a three-year deal, Shaw has earned a reputation of being one of the hottest offensive prospects in the world. Her story is one of tenacity, tribulations and triumph, even in the face of tremendous personal tragedy.

The footballer relishes the opportunity to inspire the next generation of female footballers and is championing the inclusion of more women in the sport. As such, she is proud to receive The Distinguished Award for her contributions.

“It means a lot to know I’m an example [of] what women can achieve, despite the odds being against us. I hope to see more opportunities for women’s football as a career option for our girls, because there is a lot of unearthed football talent in Jamaica,” said Shaw.

She hopes to pave the way for women in football. “I just try to inspire and show others what’s possible. In terms of football in Europe, when I mention I’m from Jamaica, sometimes I get a raised eyebrow. So I like to signal that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, talent speaks for itself,” she said.

Her advice to young girls with fears or apprehensions about pursuing a path in sports: “Work hard, have fun with the sport, find a mentor, and look for the opportunities so you can take them when they come. I know it’s difficult because there still aren’t a lot of opportunities for women in football in Jamaica … there is no league, for example. But it is not impossible. Use me as an example.”

Shaw is clear about her goals for football and herself. “I set my goals season by season. For this season, it was important for me to gel with my teammates and fit into the Manchester City system, and, hopefully, we would pick up some silverware,” she told Flair, adding that she also has an ambitious goal for the women’s national team. “We need to qualify for the next World Cup and create increased visibility for women’s football,” said Shaw.


Stephanie Lyew


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