14 years ago her Head Teacher, David Carter, asked Shakira Howard to play in her first match with an all-boys team, over 300 goals later throughout the ranks, Shakira, now 20, finds herself top of the Dorset Women’s League goal-scoring chart and leading the line for Weymouth Women.
“I was just 6-years-old, I cried when I scored my first ever goal and I ran and hugged my mum!” Recalls Shakira. “We suffered a heavy loss that game but here we are 14 years later and I’m still playing. Unfortunately, David (Carter) passed away a few years ago but I will be forever grateful for the chance he gave me all those years ago and cannot thank him enough.”
Although the days of running over to her mum crying after scoring may have long passed, she still cites her parents as still being her biggest supporters.
“My Mum and Dad used to take me to training sessions and match days, as my Dad coached me for 10 years and my Mum was the club secretary; they still come to my matches now and support me. They haven’t missed a game since I started playing at 6 years old, so I count myself very lucky and I am thankful for their support.”
Yeovil Town Ladies would be the next destination for Shakira, a side who were making massive strides in the adult game, playing in the FA Women’s Super League until very recently; they were also backed up by an impressive girls section.
“I joined Yeovil when I was 9 years old and to be part of the youth league was amazing,” she continues. “I grew as a player and cemented my position as striker by scoring over 200 goals in just under 6 years, including 50 goals in one season.
“The team and I held a fantastic record of wins, which beat the Arsenal Men’s unbeaten run and we were then known as the new invincibles. Going through the youth of an up and coming club, heading towards the Woman’s Super League was great and I even wrote the youth players’ statement for the WSL bid.”
It’s 8 goals in the league so far for the Weymouth forward as she looks to be pushing to add to her collection of Golden Boots; she laughs when pushed for her favourite goals over the years though, when you’ve scored as many as Shakira maybe it does become more difficult a question.
“Wow, I’ve definitely been put on the spot here! I’ve scored quite a few great goals; I really can’t choose my favourite.” She reluctantly answers. “Some have been really good for example; scoring from corners, scoring free-kicks from the halfway line, scoring from 25 yards out and naughty ones that hit the crossbar and go in. Some have been cheeky tap-ins and even scoring with my knee and stomach.
“I’ve only ever scored one header and that was two years ago! I love the goals that hit the top corner or go over the keeper, but I do think the ones that go past the goalkeeper when they are low are a bit boring, but a goal is a goal and I’m grateful to score those just as much as the good ones!
“I look forward to scoring some more and making more great memories in my footballing career when we start back playing again after lockdown ends.”
After impressing in the pre-season trials, Shakira was offered the opportunity to sign for the newly formed Weymouth Women side as she looked for a new challenge in the Women’s game, something she admits she feels she has found with the Terras.
“I came with the challenge of wanting to prove my footballing ability,” says Shakira. “To not only myself, but to the other people who never gave me the chance to, and to regain my confidence on the pitch. This club is definitely one of the best clubs I have played for because the management is very supportive on and off the pitch. Every single one of the girls are great, we really are one big family and everyone is always involved.
“I was very impressed when I turned up to the first training session as there were 9 or 10 girls which has continued to increase to over 20 girls in the squad! Each player works really hard, whether this is at training or on match days and this has been reflected in our recent results. I feel that Weymouth Women can continue to improve as there are dedicated management and players, so the sky really is the limit.”
The instant connection between the front three has certainly caught the eye in the first few games, backed up by the rest of the side they already look to be pushing each other for the top scorer accolade, whilst still managing to provide each other with numerous scoring opportunities.
“I think the whole team has a good connection, but with Lily (Beasley) on the right and Lucy (Roberts) on the left, I know where they are at all times even without looking. They can both deliver the ball well.
“I think the balls passed through on Sundays are phenomenal, whether they are from the midfielders, wingers or even from the defenders. This only comes from a team that trusts one another’s ability and has gelled together well in such a short space of time.”
It’s early days in Shakira’s latest chapter, but the bright start bodes well for the rest of the season – who knows? She might even be able to let us know her favourite goal come the end of it.