Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw is awesome! She finished 2018 as The Guardian’s Footballer of the Year, and impressed the sport’s fans globally. The 21 year old baller plays double duty for Jamaica’s national team and the University of Tennessee, where she is in her final year. As early as 14, the lethal striker represented three Jamaican national teams simultaneously, U-15, U-17 and U-20. Before UT, Bunny Shaw attended Navarro College in Texas and Eastern Florida State College.
Her star power becomes more admirable when we consider that Bunny has overcome adversity of almost biblical proportions. She grew up in feisty Spanish Town with seven brothers and five sisters. An older brother, Kentardo, introduced to her to football. Her mother, Monica, was hesitant to let her play football, believing it too rough a sport for girls. Eventually, she learned to accept and even support her daughter’s talent. Bunny was scouted for the youth national team, and the rest is history. Except it isn’t: as her US college career took off she lost three brothers to gun violence and then another in a traffic collision. Not many people could survive, let alone thrive, under that level of grief.
Bunny’s resilience and commitment to the Reggae Girlz helped push them to the 2019 Women’s World Cup, a historical achievement. The qualification came after a jaw-clenching penalty shoot-out against Panama. Shaw had scored the opener in the match. In her nine appearances for the senior team, she has scored 11 goals, making her the forward to watch in the tournament in France.
People have noticed that the Reggae Girlz are delivering better performances than their male counterparts, who have not qualified since 1998. Recently, the Girlz beat the senior ladies team of Nottingham Forest 3-0 in a match to commemorate the UK’s Windrush Generation. In a record for a UEFA women’s friendly, more than 4,000 attended, including Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith.
The Reggae Girlz have displayed abundant charisma and talent in the past year. They have welded into a potent force for the World Cup and are likely to be a crowd favorite. Their presence is helping to lift women’s football, long neglected by the media and society and still a sport with perhaps the worst gender pay gap. Jamaicans must give them the support they need, both corporate and individual, because they have proven that they are more than deserving.