Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Enock Mwepu has been forced to end his football career at the age of just 24 due to a hereditary heart condition.
Mwepu has been diagnosed with a condition that could worsen over time and put him at risk of suffering a potentially fatal cardiac event were he to continue playing.
He was taken ill while on a flight to join up with the Zambia national team during the recent international break and spent a period in hospital in Mali under observation before returning to Brighton.
After spells with Austrian clubs FC Liefering and Red Bull Salzburg, Mwepu joined Brighton in July 2021 and played 27 times for the club, scoring three goals including strikes against Liverpool at Anfield and Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
In an emotional statement on Twitter, Mwepu wrote: “A boy from a small Zambian township called Chambishi has some news to share.
“He stood strong to follow his dream of playing football at the highest level, and by the grace of God he lived his dream by reaching the Premier League.
“Some dreams however come to an end, so it is with sadness that I announce the need to hang up my boots because of the medical advice I have received. This is however not the end of my involvement with football, I plan to stay involved in some capacity.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that supported me in my football journey, including my wife and family, my agent 12MAN, the Zambian FA, all my previous clubs, teammates and coaches, and specially everyone at Brighton and Hove Albion.”
The club’s head of medicine and performance Adam Brett explained: “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.
“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 chairman Tony Bloom said: “We are all absolutely devastated for Enock. 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.”
New Seagulls coach Roberto De Zerbi 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.”