Enock Mwepu: Zambia star deprived of ‘bright future’ as he retires
Tributes have poured in for Zambia midfielder Enock Mwepu, who was forced to retire on Monday due to a heart issue, depriving him of a “promising future.”
Doctors discovered the ailment when the 24-year-old Brighton midfielder, dubbed ‘The Computer’ due to his ability to understand the game, became unwell on a recent trip to Mali with his national side.
“Enock has contributed so much to Zambia in such a short time, and we owe him so much,” former Zambia striker Kalusha Bwalya, a former African Footballer of the Year, told BBC Sport Africa.
“He had a promising future.” As a friend and a football-crazy Zambian, this is not good news.
“In this tough moment, I wish him and his family all the strength in the world. We will keep him in our thoughts and prayers, and we hope he will remain strong.”
Mwepu, who helped Zambia win its first African Under-20 title in 2017, was captain of the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets), scoring six goals in 23 appearances.
After Mwepu announced his retirement, Zambia’s Football Association (Faz) expressed “deep sorrow and grief.”
“Because this is a medical diagnosis, we have nothing further to say but to wish our captain the best of luck during this procedure,” Faz president Andrew Kamanga added.
“We’ve been monitoring his status since he was hospitalized to a hospital in Mali and evacuated to London, hoping for better news.” While it is too soon to discuss the future steps, we will accompany him on this trip and wish him a speedy recovery.
“I spoke with the athlete, who suggests that he be left alone for the time being to process what has just transpired. We, on the other hand, remain completely available to him and his family at this difficult time.”
Mwepu praised people who had provided “help and direction” during his career in an open letter to Faz and Zambia supporters.
“I’d want to convey my heartfelt appreciation to all of you who watched and supported me – you’ve been just incredible,” he added. “However, the time has come for me to abandon my professional playing career and join you as a fellow national team supporter.”
“I did everything I could to serve the national team with decency, pride, and respect.” My biggest desire is that my contribution to the team was meaningful.”
Mwepu was unable to train after landing in West Africa last month and was hospitalized for four days. On his return to England, he underwent testing, and his club, Brighton, stated that the results indicated his “only choice” was to retire.
Daka, Welbeck, and Zambia’s President all paid their respects.
Mwepu won four Austrian league championships and three Austrian Cups with RB Salzburg before joining Brighton & Hove Albion for a rumoured £18 million ($20 million) in July 2021.
Patson Daka, a Zambia teammate who also played with Mwepu at Salzburg, said it “saddens him” that the two could not continue their careers together after moving to England last year – when Daka joined Leicester City.
In total, he scored three goals in 27 Premier League games with the club.
Brighton striker Danny Welbeck expressed his “devastation” that Mwepu was forced to retire.
“A very nice man and a tremendous player,” Welbeck added. “Football is far less essential than family and health. Enock will also excel off the field. Without a doubt!”
“Before I arrived, I looked at the entire team, and he was a guy I was very delighted and looking forward to working with,” said new Brighton manager Roberto de Zerbi, who was just appointed last month.
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“We will do all in our power to assist him.”
Mwepu was advised to “remain strong” by RB Salzburg, and Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema tweeted his support for Mwepu.
“Thank you for stretching the frontiers of Zambian football, Enock. In your next chapter, we wish you good health and God’s blessings “Hichilema made a post.
Mwepu never competed in the Africa Cup of Nations, for which Zambia has not qualified since 2015, but there were expectations that he, Daka, and Rangers striker Fashion Sakala might spearhead a rebirth of the Copper Bullets, African champions in 2012.
“There is tremendous astonishment,” Ponga Liwewe, a former Faz official, told BBC Sport Africa.
“His career was taking off, and he was one of the guys we hoped would spark Zambian football and put it back on track.” Mwepu’s departure is a significant blow to Zambian football.
“There is incredulity that a player with the potential to be one of Zambia’s finest talents has had his career cut short.”
— Patson Daka (@PatsonDaka20) October 10, 2022
Devastated for Enock. A great player and a truly great guy. Family and health is way more important than football. Enock will shine off the pitch too. No doubt!🙏🏿 pic.twitter.com/WGPM9e55NT
— Danny Welbeck (@DannyWelbeck) October 10, 2022
— Enock Mwepu (@EnockMwepu45) October 10, 2022