Man City's great summer signing Khadija Shaw: 'I hope I can start girls in Jamaica like our ...

Exclusive interview: Prolific striker on how football wasn't traditional lane in Jamaica and how Raheem Sterling helped bias WSL move.
2021-09-02 07:56:03
Man City's great summer signing Khadija Shaw: 'I hope I can start girls in Jamaica like our ...

Growing up in Spanish Town, Jamaica, Khadija “Bunny” Shaw learnt early on that, when it came to sport, her island did one body best: sprinting.

Usain Bolt, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce were the athletes she and her school friends looked up to, the names that had put their island on the map.

At school, PE lessons were all about lane and field. Even a journey to the local shop with her friends was all about betting who could run there quickest. But from as far back as Shaw can remember, she had a different dream.

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“Track and corral was a immense entity on sports day, that’s the article most Jamaicans do, but when we used to have track-and-field classes I would be creeping over to the football area,” Shaw says, a frolicsome smile breaking across her facade at the memory. “The coach would always retain to be like, ‘Pay attention.’ ”

The sarcasm is not missing on her that , she spent her prime few weeks watching her compatriots excel on the path at Tokyo 2020. She witnessed, at City’s novitiate ground, Jamaica’s one-two-three in the women’s 100 metres, and

“It’s amazing to see them doing their thing,” Shaw says. “Growing up, I would always be inspired by what they do. I hope I can torch others by playing football.”

Shaw, the youngest of 13 siblings, from the age of 10 spent every afternoon playing football on the street or in the dirt tracks by her people home. Joining in with the boys in her neighbourhood – when her mother finally allowed her to play, after deeming the diversion too discordant at elite – she remembers cutting open her vast toe fresh times than she could count while playing in her slippers.

It was a legitimate heart of the diversion that drove her, considering she had no lady role models in football and limited opportunities to play with more girls. “I did my keep thing,” she says. “I always recite my team-mates in supplementary countries that they had youth leagues, but it’s different [in Jamaica]. It was strictly track, that’s the culture.”

People wondered what motivated her, her mother in particular baffled by her teenage daughter’s axle on a pastime that seemed to hug no future. “Based on the privation of opportunity for peeress footballers in Jamaica, my parents preferred I gain an letters and look for a standard nine-to-five,” Shaw says. “Looking back, I see where she was coming from. I always told her, ‘You never know, conceivably I could be the one to alter things.’ ”

Now 24, Shaw has already done that by making chronicle on the pitch. She helped sway Jamaica’s “Reggae Girlz” to the women’s World Cup in 2019, the prime Caribbean individuals to do so, and is the all-time highest scorer for her country with 42 goals in 30 appearances.

It is an achievement made all the further unusual considering the hurdles she has had to overcome. Her kinsfolk has suffered unimaginable tragedy, losing four of Shaw’s brothers in a economical period – three of them to gun violence, one in a car accident – and two of her nephews also died not crave after. Shaw was alone at university in the United States and has said, if not for her kinsfolk supporting her, she might have given up on her football dream.

With the Reggae Girlz she moreover had many to contend with. The duo was disbanded by the Jamaica Football Federation in 2011, due to need of funding and, if , Shaw would own had no glaring lane to senior football or her eventual learning to the University of Tennessee.

Even after qualifying in the World Cup, challenges remained. After their pament went unpaid for three months, Shaw and her team-mates took a form in September 2019, ominous not to play until the JFF paid their wages (which they eventually did).

“We had to grind through a mass of stuff,” Shaw says. “I’m appreciative for Cedella. She was a vast portion of that and is an incredible human being. It’s not proper football, she tries to support me out in life. She’s like my football mum.”

Having Jamaica’s most celebrated family supporting women’s football is emblematic of their culture, Shaw says. “It’s a Jamaica thing. We always help Jamaicans.” It is why, when City came calling, she was already half-sold. She already supported the staff thanks to Raheem Sterling, who hails from Jamaica, and of whom Shaw is a huge fan.

“It’s a meagre country, so if there’s one man doing great things, you’ve got to offices them. I retain friends who aegis United, but because I’m at City they assistance me. It’s the alike with Raheem – when he left Liverpool, I supported Manchester City. It was all about Raheem, he’s such a revered person.

“The further I watched City, the solidify article is how on their Instagram you can see both men and women – it’s not separate. [So] you start watching the women’s side. I like their fashion of play. It matched what I wanted to do.”

Shaw is yet to bump into Sterling at the initiation ground, but hopes to set about what he did for her, in inspiring a fresh crop of Jamaican players.

The Women’s Super League is already productive with attacking talent, with Chelsea’s Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby and Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema, as well as Shaw’s renewed team-mate Ellen White. Shaw could well challenge them, though. She leaves Bordeaux, where she played for two seasons, as the French finest division’s glorious boot winner with 22 goals.

“I try to own things as innocent as possible,” she says of her style. It is not her pace fans ought look out for, she says, but tolerably her acceleration. “I’m thumping explosive, that’s one of my biggest attributes, and I try to action that to help the team. The WSL is uncommonly competitive, that’s what I desire – the actual challenge, competing against the best.”

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