Brighton players warmed up in shirts with Enock Mwepu’s name on the back ahead of Friday’s Premier League clash against Brentford, while fans – and chairman Tony Bloom – displayed Zambia flags in the away end.
The 24-year-old was taken ill while on a flight to join up with the Zambia squad during the recent international break and after a period in hospital in Mali, he returned to Brighton to undergo further cardiac tests.
It was then confirmed that those tests had concluded that his illness is due to a hereditary cardiac condition which manifests later in life. It was not previously evident on regular cardiac screening.
A club statement read: “Sadly this can be exacerbated by playing sport so Enock has been advised that the only option, for the sake of his own safety, is for him to stop playing football.
“The condition, which can worsen over time, would put Enock at an extremely high risk of suffering a potentially fatal cardiac event, if he were to continue playing competitive football.”
Mwepu released a statement of his own on Monday explaining his decision to retire.
“A boy from a small Zambian township called Chambishi has some news to share,” Mwepu said in a statement published on Brighton’s website.
“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, team-mates and coaches and especially everyone at Brighton & Hove Albion.”
Days after Mwepu’s announcement and as the Premier League outfit prepared to face Brentford in West London, everyone associated with Brighton came together to pay tribute to the former RB Salzburg player.
From wearing Mwepu branded shirts in the warm-up, to having a Zambia flag in their dressing room as a show of support, the Seagulls have been praised by many for their efforts.
Brentford manager Thomas Frank even devoted the first three paragraphs of his programme notes for his 200th game in charge to the recently-retired midfielder.
Here’s some of the best reaction from social media.
Brighton’s head of medicine and performance, Adam Brett, said this week that the club will make sure Mwepu’s condition is managed with the appropriate treatment for him to otherwise live a long and healthy life.