Tributes have flooded in for Enock Mwepu after the Zambia midfielder was forced to retire on Monday because of a heart condition, so depriving him of a “bright future”.
Doctors picked up the condition after the 24-year-old Brighton player, nicknamed ‘The Computer’ because of his reading of the game, fell ill on a recent trip to Mali with his national team.
“Enock has given so much in a short period to Zambia and we are indebted to him,” former Zambia striker Kalusha Bwalya, a former African Footballer of the Year, told BBC Sport Africa.
“He had a bright future. It is not good news, as a friend and as a football-loving Zambian.
“I wish him and his family all the strength in the world at this most difficult time. We will keep him in our prayers and we hope he stays strong.”
Mwepu, who was instrumental in helping Zambia win a maiden African Under-20 title in 2017, was captain of the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets), having registered six goals from his 23 caps.
Zambia’s Football Association (Faz) spoke of its “profound shock and devastation” after Mwepu announced his retirement.
“This being a medical diagnosis leaves us with little else to say but only wish our skipper all the best throughout this process,” Faz president Andrew Kamanga added.
“We have kept tabs on his condition since he was admitted to hospital in Mali and airlifted to London, and had hoped for better news.
“While it is too soon to talk about the next step, we will walk with him throughout this journey and wish him full recovery.
“I have spoken to the player, who advises that he be left alone in the meantime to digest in privacy what has just happened. We, however, remain at his full disposal for him and his family in this dark moment.”
In an open letter to Faz and Zambia supporters, Mwepu thanked those who had offered “assistance and guidance” over the course of his career.
“I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all the fans who watched and supported me – you have been simply amazing,” he wrote.
“But alas, the time has come for me to end my professional playing journey and join you as a fellow fan of the national team.
“I tried my best to serve the national team with dignity, pride, and respect. My greatest hope is that my contribution to the team made a difference.”
Mwepu was unable to train after arriving in West Africa last month and spent four days in hospital. He had tests on his return to England, with his club Brighton saying the results meant his “only option” was to retire. Read More