Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Enock Mwepu has been forced to retire from football following the diagnosis of a hereditary heart condition, the Premier League club announced on Monday.
Mwepu, 24, joined Brighton from RB Salzburg last summer and made 27 appearances for the club, scoring three goals and providing seven assists. However, his career has been cut short because the condition could worsen over time and put Mwepu at an extremely high risk of suffering a potentially fatal cardiac event if he were to continue playing competitive football, Brighton said in a statement.
“We are all absolutely devastated for Enock," Brighton chairman Tony Bloom said. "He and his family have had a traumatic few weeks and while we are just thankful he has come through that period, he has seen such a promising career cut short at such a young age.
“As a club we will give him all the love, help and support we possibly can to make a full recovery, and then as he decides on the next steps in his life.”
Mwepu, who was captain of the Zambia national team, had been taken ill during the international break and spent time in a hospital in Mali. After returning to Brighton he underwent further cardiac tests, which concluded that his condition could worsen as he gets older and could be exacerbated by playing rigorous sport.
As such, Mwepu was advised that his only option was to stop playing football.
“It is a terrible blow for Enock, but he has to put his health and his family first and this is the right choice, however difficult it is to quit the game he loves," Brighton's Head of Medicine and Performance, Adam Brett, said.
“Of course, given this is Enock’s career and a decision which can’t be taken lightly, we have taken our time to be as thorough as possible, completed advanced cardiac investigations and collaborated with clinical experts to gain the best second opinions for Enock.
“We will be helping him make sure the condition is managed with the appropriate treatment for him to otherwise live a long and healthy life.”
Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi, who was recently appointed following Graham Potter's move to Chelsea, added: "I am so sorry for Enock. Before I arrived I looked at all the squad, and he was a player I was so excited and looking forward to working with. We will do everything we can to help him.”
Mwepu started his career in his native Zambia before joining Salzburg in 2017, winning four Austrian Bundesliga titles and four Austrian Cups. He moved to Brighton last summer and his goal against Liverpool was awarded the club's goal of the season.