Brighton midfielder Enock Mwepu has retired from football at the age of 24 after being diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening heart condition.
The Zambia player was ruled out during the most recent international break after he was taken ill on the flight to meet up with his national teammates.
He spent time in a Malian hospital then flew back to Brighton, where tests revealed the hereditary condition.
A statement from Albion read: “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.
“[The tests] have concluded that his illness is due to a hereditary cardiac condition, which manifests later in life and was not previously evident on regular cardiac screening. 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.”
Mwepu shared his story on Twitter, writing: “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 I announce the need to hang up my boots because of 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.”
Mwepu joined the Seagulls from RB Salzburg in July 2021, signing a four-year deal, and scored two goals across 18 Premier League appearances last campaign.
He has featured in six of Brighton’s matches so far this season.
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.”
Head coach Roberto De Zerbi, who took charge earlier this month 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.”