‘I didn’t want to play soccer’ - The inspiring and tragic story of new Man City signing Bunny Shaw

Khadija Shaw Jamaica Manchester City Women splitManchester City/Getty/Goal

Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw’s route to where she is today at Manchester City has been nothing short of incredible.

Her numbers speak for themselves. The striker, whose nickname was given to her by her brother because of her love for carrots as a child, scored 32 goals in 35 league games for Bordeaux, and has an incredible 42 in 30 caps for Jamaica.

Still just 24 years old and announced as City’s latest signing on Friday, Shaw is unquestionably one of the most exciting young forwards in the world right now.

But it is not just her on the pitch achievements, which include helping her country qualify for their first ever Women’s World Cup and beating the stars of Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon to the French league’s Golden Boot last season, that mark her out as extraordinary.

It is what she has overcome in order to get to where she is now that makes her success even more breath-taking.

While Shaw was making a name for herself in the United States through a prolific college career, scoring 51 goals in 56 games in her three years, two spent at Eastern Florida State College and her final at the University of Tennessee, the unthinkable was happening to her family back home.

One of 13 children, Shaw lost four of her brothers, three to gang-related gun violence and one in a fatal car accident. She also had to come to terms with the death of two of her nephews, one electrocuted on a football pitch and another tragically taken away by gun violence.

“I wanted to go home,” Shaw told the Guardian in 2018. “I didn’t want to play soccer.

"I would say it definitely [made] me stronger. In the moment I wouldn’t have thought that. But now, to see what I’ve accomplished, knowing I’ve lost so much, I would say it definitely helped me.”

Her move to City is the latest on that very long list of accomplishments. The forward chose not to declare for the National Women’s Soccer League draft when she graduated in 2018, wanting to look abroad rather than play in the United States. Now, her decision has been rewarded with a move that is particularly special.

Shaw not only has family who live in Manchester, but she has followed City ever since Jamaican-born Raheem Sterling joined them from Liverpool. Sterling, an England international, even sent her a special message last week, upon the announcement of her arrival.

“It’s been a long and tough journey,” Shaw told reporters on Friday, reflecting on her path to this point. “But I always tried to focus on my goals instead of the obstacles.

“I think growing up, [I had] that mindset to just want to achieve something and not just think about what it's going to take to get there, just wanting to arrive at that stage and be proud of myself, and also my family. They're very excited.

“It was very difficult for them as well but, like I said, it's just a mindset and if you have the right mindset, you can achieve anything.

“I'm always up to the challenge. From when I was small, growing up, I've always faced challenges. This [move] is just another one that I see myself doing. I try to challenge myself and test myself as much as possible.

“I left the United States and I went across to Europe, to France. It was very difficult with the language and the culture, but like I said, I am somebody who likes to challenge myself.

"For me, to now leave France and go to England is another challenge. I wouldn't say it was the most difficult thing because I've been going through challenges since I was very small.”

Khadija Shaw quote gfx PS 4:5Getty/Goal

Shaw does not just take on challenges either – she thrives in them, wearing an incredibly wide smile as she does so.

She has played huge roles in so many ‘firsts’ in her career already. She scored three goals in five games to help Jamaica reach the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where the debutants were the lowest ranked nation.

She scored 22 goals in 20 league games last season for Bordeaux, firing the club into the Women’s Champions League for the first time. Those efforts also secured her the Golden Boot, making her the first player not from Lyon or PSG to win the award in seven years.

“I'm a simple but very unpredictable player,” Shaw explains. “I could do something today and then tomorrow I do something different, you know what I mean? But I try to make the game as simple as possible."

That approach should see her fit in perfectly with the City ideology as she prepares to face new challenges in the new season.

Shaw will play Champions League football for the first time; she will introduce herself to a new culture and style of play with England and the Women’s Super League; she will battle new defenders to score goals and new forwards for the Golden Boot; and she will look to usurp Ellen White, a seasoned England international who is just behind Vivianne Miedema in the WSL’s all-time top-scorer list, for a starting berth in Manchester.

But Shaw’s ability and track record in her career to date suggests she will take to everything like a fish to water.

After all, as she says, she has faced challenges far more difficult in her lifetime than this move will be.