Mvala vows to fight for top 8

Saturday Star - - SPORT - MIHLALI BALEKA @Mih­lal­ibaleka

HIGH­LANDS Park mid­fielder Mothobi Mvala is reap­ing the fruits of the loy­alty seeds he’s sowed at the Tem­bisa-based club.

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).

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