Jamaica-born Khadija Shaw scores goals in bundles

Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw

Growing up in Jamaica, Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw wasn’t allowed to play football and had to sneak out her house to play with her brothers in her school uniform.

Now, the new Manchester City forward is one of the most prolific goal scorers in the women’s game and is Jamaica’s all-time top scorer at 24 years of age.

Shaw said before City’s Women’s Super League match against West Ham, and following her second-half hat-trick against Leicester, “As a female it was pretty difficult [growing up in Jamaica] because there’s not a lot of opportunities for girls there. I was playing football amongst the boys. It was tough because they didn’t make it easy for me.”

“When I was younger, my parents didn’t allow me to play football because of the lack of opportunities. They saw it as a waste of time.

“I used to sneak out after my parents left for work and come back in before they got home. One day my dad came and found me and I had to run off the pitch because he was chasing me.”

Shaw, who got the nickname ‘Bunny’ because of her love of carrots as a child, was raised in Spanish Town, the birthplace of singer Grace Jones, and attended the same high school as sprinter Yohan Blake.

“Jamaica is based on athletics,” she said. “Even before school, everyone’s like, ‘first one to the shop gets a dollar.’ In PE, we were told to sprint but I would always be watching the boys play football. My teacher would say, ‘focus, focus!’

“I said to my mum, ‘let’s strike a deal, I pass my exams and you let me play.’ I passed, and then I got called up for the Jamaica U15s team when I was 13. When I got the call up, that’s when it all started.”

While representing her country in Florida, Shaw was offered scholarships at Navarro College in Texas and Eastern Florida State College.

She was then scouted by the University of Tennessee, where she simultaneously completed a degree in communications and helped Jamaica become the first Caribbean nation to reach the Women’s World Cup in 2019.

Shaw said: “It inspires me to keep going, knowing that I’m inspiring other female footballers. When we were in the World Cup I didn’t expect the impact it would have on our country.

Shaw has tragically lost three brothers and a nephew to gang violence in her Jamaican hometown, with the news of her nephew’s passing coming while she was studying and playing football in Florida.

“What motivates me to keep going is where I’m coming from. It’s been a long journey, but I’ve made it this far,” she said.

“There is a lack of opportunities being a female in Jamaica, whether that’s in sport or in general. I had no support growing up, I just knew I wanted to do what I wanted to do.”

In June, Shaw joined Manchester City on a three-year deal after two prolific seasons with French club Girondins de Bordeaux, where she scored 32 goals in 35 league games and was named Guardian Footballer of the Year in 2018

Joining the Blues after a Golden Boot-winning campaign in France, the Jamaican scored on her WSL debut in a 4-1 win over Everton and scored a hat-trick in a 6-0 FA Cup quarter-final win over Leicester last Wednesday night.

Shaw said: “I had a great two years in France and I got offers from English clubs. It wasn’t always definitely Manchester, but Raheem Sterling played a part in the transfer.

“In Jamaica, even if you don’t support a club, you can support a person, so when Raheem Sterling was at Liverpool I used to always watch Liverpool and then he came to Manchester City.

“I spoke to Raheem beforehand and then I came over here.”

Man City and England forward Sterling posted a video online shortly after the announcement of Shaw’s transfer, congratulating her on the move and welcoming her to the “close-knit Manchester City family”.