Enock Mwepu has been forced to end his playing career after being diagnosed with a hereditary heart condition.
The Zambia international, 24, who joined Brighton for around £20m from Red Bull Salzburg last July, was taken ill while on a flight to join his national side during the international break. Mwepu was admitted to hospital for four days in Mali before returning to Brighton for further tests.
A statement from Brighton said the tests “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.”
“A boy from a small Zambian township called Chambishi has news to share,” Mwepu wrote in a message on Twitter. “He stood strong to follow his dreams of playing football at the highest level, and by grace of God, he lived his dream by reaching the Premier League.
“Some dreams, however, have an end, so it is with sadness that I announce the need to hang up my boots because of the medical advice I received. This is not the end of my involvement in football, I intend to stay involved to some degree.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported me in my football trip including my wife and family, my agent 12MAN, the Zambian FA, all my past team-mates and coaches, specially everyone at Brighton & Hove Albion.”
The 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 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.”
The head coach, Roberto De Zerbi, said: “I am so sorry for Enock. Before I arrived he was a player I was so looking forward to working with. We will do everything we can to help him.”
Mwepu – who was known as “the Computer” in his homeland for his ability to read the game – started Brighton’s 5-2 win against Leicester last month in what proved to be his final match for the club. He made 27 appearances in total for Brighton, scoring three goals, and won 23 caps for Zambia.