A sobering day for football: Brighton's Mwepu forced to retire

The Zambian star has had to hang up his boots, aged 24

Dan Balliston
25th October 2022
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Brighton midfielder Enock Mwepu has tragically been forced to retire aged 24 after being diagnosed with a hereditary heart condition.

"Chambishi to the Premier League. Your dream came true. We are all with."

These were the poignant words etched on the Brighton & Hove Albion players as they warmed up against Brentford to mark the heart-breaking retirement of their midfielder, Enock Mwepu, who was forced to hang up his boots after the discovery of a hereditary heart condition on Monday 10th October.

Born and raised in Zambia, Mwepu was just the sixth Zambian ever to grace the Premier League and, at twenty-four years of age, he had achieved his lifelong ambition to play football in England. What seemed an innocuous illness whilst on international duty spiralled into a devastating discovery of a life-threatening heart condition, once Mwepu was examined back in Brighton.

Chambishi to the Premier League. Your dream came true. We are all with.

Mwepu and his family have taken solace, though, in the fact that the condition has been unearthed before any fatal consequences. Life threatening examples such as Fabrice Muamba and Christian Eriksen still strike chills into the body of any football fan now, and is more than enough evidence that proves no professional should be at any health risk whilst doing what they love. It simply answers any doubt as to why the midfielder faces such a concrete fate in relation to his football career at such a young age. The Premier League is not only the highest quality league in Europe, it also challenges every competitor to their limit, proving to be the greatest test of a footballer’s physical endurance. When considering the health and fitness levels of these players, it is tragically both inconceivable and dangerous for Mwepu to make a safe return to this level.

Any Brighton supporter or football fan would agree on the undoubted quality of Enock Mwepu on the pitch. Nicknamed ‘The Computer’ due to his excellent reading of the game, the Zambian made a significant impact for the south coast club after just one season, playing twenty-seven times and scoring three excellent goals. Mwepu picked up the Brighton Goal of the Season award in May 2022 for his memorable strike against Liverpool last October and assisted Brighton’s goal of the month against Leicester just six weeks ago.

Brighton wore shirts honoring Mwepu in warmup ahead of the Brentford clash (Image: Twitter @brfootball)

Regardless of his footballing ability, though, the extremely likeable and generous nature of Mwepu is what makes this such a saddening story. His first wages earned as a footballer in Austria were spent on buying his family a house and car in Zambia as a gesture of thanks for enabling him to follow and achieve his dream. His relaxed and smiling demeanour both on and off the pitch endeared him to both pundits, players and fans and what lay ahead of him in both football and life was undoubtedly success with no ceiling.

Clubs such as Arsenal and Leeds have publicly documented their condolences, whilst the reception received at Brentford on Friday night was a moving spectacle for all involved. Teammates and former colleagues have also taken to social media to offer their profound sympathy. Former Brighton star and now Tottenham Hotspur midfielder, Yves Bissouma, expressed his sorrow with a heart-felt paragraph posted on his Instagram account, whilst the manager who brought Mwepu to the Premier League, Graham Potter, offered his sincere condolences during a press conference. It is difficult to document the feeling of sorrow that is felt by all connected with Enock Mwepu. Whether you are a fan of Brighton & Hove Albion or sport as a whole, this is the sort of sobering headline that strikes deep into the soul and forces you to consider and reflect on how health really is the most important aspect of life and how fortunate everyone is in their own way.  

Brighton’s first home fixture since the retirement of Mwepu will be against Nottingham Forest on Tuesday 18th October. The event as a whole will be emotionally charged with chants, flags and applause, all in support of the Zambian and his family. Whilst all Premier League matches are dictated by the score and outcome, Tuesday will be a stark reminder that both physical and mental wellbeing takes priority over everything. Football is just a game.

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