Enock Mwepu taken ill following retirement: what Brighton and player have said about hereditary heart disease

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The 24-year-old will step away from the professional game with immediate effect.

Former Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Enock Mwepu is currently in hospital in Zambia after suffering a suspected heart attack on Sunday. The illness comes only three months after he was forced to call time on his playing career after it was discovered that he has a hereditary heart condition.

Mwepu had established himself as a key member of the Seagulls’ first team squad since signing from RB Salzburg in 2021, but had been absent since early September, with his last appearance coming in a 5-2 win over Leicester City at the Amex Stadium.

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It is understood that the Zambian’s heart condition, which can worsen over time, would put him at an ‘extremely high risk of suffering a potentially fatal cardiac event’, if he were to continue playing professional football. As such, Mwepu was forced into an early retirement, and will no longer represent Brighton, or his national team, for who he has amassed 24 caps and six goals.

The 24-year-old had returned to his native Zambia, but it was reported at the weekend that he had fallen ill while driving and was seen to fall after parking his car. Mwepu is now having precautionary checks at the hospital as he recovers.

What does a ‘hereditary’ heart condition mean?

In a medical sense, a hereditary disorder is caused by mutations in certain genes or chromosomes that are passed down from parent to child. As such, hereditary syndromes may be inherited from one or both parents, and can affect several close family members, such as fathers, brothers, and sons.

What have Brighton said about Mwepu’s condition?

In a statement made on Sunday, Brighton confirmed that Mwepu was in hospital. “Enock was taken unwell in Zambia and is currently undergoing precautionary checks,” a Brighton spokesperson said.

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“Our medical team is in communication with the hospital to assist if required. The club would like to thank the many well-wishers for their messages and support.”

The club had previously shared their shock and support for the Zambian after he was forced to retire. Club 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.”

Albion head 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.”

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.

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“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.”

What has Mwepu said about his retirement?

In a statement released in October, Mwepu expressed his sadness at the news of his retirement, and took the time to thank those dearest to him as he reflected on his career.

“A boy from a small Zambian township called Chambishi has some news to share,” the midfielder said. “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.

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“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, team-mates and coaches and especially everyone at Brighton & Hove Albion.”

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