By Gregory Bryce
Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw is a name that’s slowly becoming synonymous to ‘prolific goal scorer’, if you were to ask me. The 23-year-old striker, who now plays in France with Girondins de Bordeaux, is making a name for herself on the women’s European football scene and she continues to be a trailblazer back home.
This week, it was announced that Shaw would be among the recipients of this year’s Order of Distinction officer class, which is the sixth highest national honour, after her admirable contributions to the field of sport. This award is yet another accolade to the rising talent, who will make history as the first female footballer to receive the award. She’ll join the likes of Merlene Ottey, Alia Atkinson, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Stefanie Taylor as fellow female athletes to be awarded the same honour.
It is indeed a well-deserved distinction for Shaw, who grew up playing football for St. Jago High School before she went overseas to eventually represent the University of Tennessee. Throughout her development, Shaw has been patriotic in and out, representing Jamaica at the youth level before transitioning to the senior team where she would go on to score 42 goals (the highest Jamaican goal tally – whether male or female) in 30 appearances – with 19 of those goals coming in a record-breaking World Cup Qualifying period where she finished as the region’s top goal scorer.
Also named the 2018 Guardian’s Footballer of the Year, it is good to see Shaw’s efforts being recognized by the country she represents.
I remember well when I met the Reggae Girlz team manager, Jean Nelson, at the Norman Manley International Airport after she had returned from France following the World Cup. She was beaming with pride for her team’s efforts – and not just the senior team, but the juniors as well – and was confident that was only the start.
“I think the future is looking good. We just have the keep the programme going strong, and be serious about what we’re doing while planning accordingly,” Nelson said to me then, and her words proved prophetic.
Not only is Khadija Shaw performing well overseas – scoring 10 goals in 15 matches for Bordeaux and finishing joint fourth in the goal scoring table – but her compatriots are making their mark as well.
Deneisha Blackwood also made the move to Europe, having joined Czech women giants, Slavia Praha, and went on to take part in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Jamaican international, Tiffany Cameron, recently announced her move to Hungarian champions, Ferencvarosi Torna, and is expected to apply her trade in the Champions League as well. Not to mention Allyson Swaby is a mainstay in AS Roma’s defence.
But even if you were to look away from Europe, the influence of our Girlz is just as dominant. Reggae Girlz captain, Konya Plummer, is now a part of the Orlando Pride in the American league, where she’ll be playing alongside the Brazilian legend Marta. Chantelle Swaby – who completes the sister defensive duo with Allyson – joins Plummer in America having signed for Sky Blue FC.
Our Girlz have grown in strides and the success has begun to trickle down the ranks. The U20 Reggae Girlz ended an inspiring campaign at the quarter-final stage, and our U14 Girlz finished a successful Caribbean Challenge Series as the undefeated champions.
Women’s football has seen a lot of success recently for Jamaica, and it is time for us to respect the work being done by our Girlz. The Order of Distinction being awarded to Khadija Shaw is as good a start as any.
Gregory Bryce is a freelance sports journalist.