Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw is the best inspiration for Jamaican girls dreaming of making it in the professional ranks. But the prolific Manchester City striker feels the Jamaica Football Federation is lagging behind the rapid rise of women’s football’s globally.
“If I were in Jamaica right now, I wouldn’t waste my time trying to play football. There’s nothing going on,” Shaw said.
Considering the growth in women’s football in recent years, and Jamaica’s astonishing progress to qualify for two consecutive World Cups, there should be plenty of reason for optimism.
The seasoned international who is Jamaica’s all-time leading scorer with 56 goals in 38 appearances, will captain the Reggae Girlz at the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this summer.
But despite all their achievements, Shaw is frustrated by what she perceives as a lack of support by the JFF. She feels the team has too often been left under-resourced for training camps, while the grassroots level remains disorganised and the women’s national league is in disarray.
Shaw turns 26 on January 31 and in her short life she has faced many hardships, including losing three brothers to gang violence and a fourth in a car accident. But she’s overcome those hurdles to become one of the most feared strikers in the Women’s Super League at City.
Growing up playing on the streets with boys in Spanish Town, her mother discouraged her from pursuing a football career as Jamaican girls rarely reached the heights. Nevertheless, Shaw persisted and was lucky enough to be given a scholarship at Eastern Florida State College before attracting the attention of the University of Tennessee.
“If someone from overseas hadn’t seen me and mentioned me, I’d probably still be in Jamaica.”
She is thankful of the energy and input of Cedella Marley, Bob’s daughter, who reactivated women’s football in Jamaica in 2014 after a four-year hiatus. Marley attracted sponsors, instigated fundraising campaigns and even set up a GoFundMe for the players.
Like the Reggae Boyz in 1998, Jamaica’s first qualification for the 2019 World Cup in France was an incredible feat. The majority of the squad were playing in college or high school. At 21, Shaw was already one of the more experienced players. Shaw is aggrieved that there was no acknowledgement at home for their feat.
That summer transformed Shaw’s trajectory, moving to Bordeaux, France, scoring 32 times in only 35 games. A move to Manchester City followed in 2021, where she has established herself, and has scored 10 times in 11 WSL matches this term.
Jamaica head into this year’s World Cup confident, under head coach Lorne Donaldson whose strategy is to keep possession and stream forward with attacking flair. To highlight Shaw’s point, most of the squad were born in the UK or North America, few in Jamaica.
With her speed, vision, first touch and lethal finishing, Shaw leads the line brilliantly. And she believes the team can cause some group game upsets which includes Brazil and France.
“We believe our best is good enough at the end of the day. We have goals, we want to come out of the group stages,” she said. “We’re underdogs, yeah, but we’ve been there before and we can’t look at it that way.”