While the club might have had their ups and downs, Mvala’s dedication has been unshaken. After they were relegated from the Absa Premiership two seasons ago, he opted to remain despite interest in his services locally and abroad after an impressive campaign that also saw him represent his country at the Olympics in Brazil in 2016.
Down in the second-tier, he continued to be a true servant to the Lions of the North as he inspired them to an immediate return to top-flight football.
“If we had won our last game against Sundowns, we could have been safe from relegation,” Mvala recalled. “I played in that game and I told myself that I would go down with the team and help them get back up.”
Mvala was true to his word as he propelled the Lions of the North back to the PSL.
However, he didn’t leave it there as he ensured that they hit the ground running. Six months into the new season, he leads the league’s scoring charts with seven goals from 16 matches, while the team are placed ninth in the standings.
The Theunissen-born player admitted that his current red-hot form comes with hard work.
“It’s not easy being a midfielder who does box-to-box as that requires fitness and working hard at training,” Mvala said.
“The coaches always emphasise we must stay behind so we can practice finishing.
“Every time our strikers Tendai (Ndoro) and Peter (Shalulile) practice finishing I am always there with them. It’s a great feeling when hard work pays off because it’s not easy being a box-to-box player.”
Highlands coach Owen Da Gama has been one of the inspirations behind Mvala’s rise this season. Da Gama and Mvala’s union goes back to the 2016 Olympics as “Rubber Doll” coached the South Africans against hosts Brazil, Iraq and Sweden.
Last season, together as vice-captain and coach, they propelled the Lions to a return to top-flight football, where Mvala bagged the club’s Player of Year award.
However, far from taking solo credit for the club’s performance so far, Mvala believes it was important for youngsters to quickly gel in the team.
“I am happy they have responded well, and they have no respect for so-called big teams and players,” he said.
“They are doing very well, I think the future is bright for these boys. People haven’t seen them and I think they must give thanks to our coaches.”
Mvala and company are targeting a top-eight finish, but he’s aware that won’t be easy as they have tricky fixtures along the way, including their next assignment, away to AmaZulu at King Zwelithini Stadium today (8:15pm kick-off).
“We don’t want to be in that (relegation) zone," Mvala said.
We know that this game we are going to play on the weekend is going to be an important one, but going in front of their supporters won’t be easy. But we are going there to fight.”
Also in the PSL today, Black Leopards host SuperSport United (3.30pm) and Cape Town City entertain Baroka FC (8.15pm), while tomorrow it’s Bloemfontein Celtic at home to Golden Arrows (3.30pm).