By Adeyemi Olusoga
“ Some dreams do end,” Enock Mwepu was saying in a post he made on Facebook as he announced his retirement from football.
Mwepu’s story is a legend of sorts. Born in a little Zambian township of Chambishi, a dream of a place in the Premier League, playing at the top to English football is a luxury he cannot afford. But through single minded devotion, he pursued his dream and “stood strong” ending up at the top of English football, a reality many in his home town could hardly relate to.
But the dream would not last for long. At 24 years and at the top of his career, Mwepu was forced to call it quits suddenly.
The nightmare became a reality when he fell ill on a flight to link up with his Zambian teammates in the international break in September 2022. He was diagnosed with a significant hereditary heart condition which would most likely cause a cardiac arrest should he continue to play football, according to a statement from his English club, Brighton and Hove Albion, where he had featured six times this season.
“As a player, you want to call time on your own career. You don’t want it to be through injury or a medical condition like this,” Sue Smith, a former English footballer who last played for Doncaster Rovers Belles and England said. “You feel devastated for him, he’s 24 years of age with huge potential and Brighton think of him very highly. I’m sure they’ll support him and his family,” she added.
But Mwepu has received tons of support from his club and country. Tony Bloom, chairman of Brighton said the club is “devastated” for Mwepu.
“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,” Bloom said.
Brighton manager, Roberto De Zerbi said he was looking forward to working with him as he prepared to join the club.
Zerbi: “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. It is terrible news – thankfully not as terrible as it could have been.”
Chelsea manager and former Brighton coach, Graham Potter said he was thankful Mwepu is alive. “It’s really terrible. Thankfully, it isn’t as terrible as it maybe could have been because I think he has been a little bit lucky, as much as he can be lucky, in terms of being alive and well, which is something we are all really thankful for.
“But, of course, at 24 years old, to not be able to play football just puts everything into perspective. I tried calling him today and sent him a message. He’s a fantastic person, so whatever he does in his life, he’ll succeed, but it’s a shame we won’t see him on the football pitch,” Graham said.
Mwepu featured in all six of Brighton’s Premier League games this season before the September international break and played 27 times for the club since joining from Red Bull Salzburg in July 2021. The midfielder also scored six goals in 23 appearances for the Zambian national team.
In a post announcing his retirement, Mwepu promised to stay in touch with football, even though he did not disclose in what capacity, it is likely he would be looking to go into coaching.
Mwepu: “A small boy from a Zambian township called Chambishi has some news to share,” the midfielder wrote. “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 by boots because of the medical advice I have received. This is not the end of my involvement in football, I plan to stay involved in some capacity.”