BLANTYRE, Malawi -- Malawi under-20 striker Abel Mwakilama died on Friday of suspected cerebral malaria in Portugal, where he had only recently joined a lower-division team. He was 18.
Mwakilama's manager, Venancio Patrick, said it's thought that the player contracted cerebral malaria while back in Malawi for an under-20 African Nations Cup qualifier against Swaziland three weeks ago.
Patrick said Mwakilama complained of a headache and was taken to the hospital in Portugal where he was told he had cerebral malaria. Patrick and the Football Association of Malawi said Mwakilama died on Friday in the hospital in Porto.
"It is so shocking, so sad. We are devastated,'' Football Association of Malawi general secretary Alfred Gunda said.
At age 17, Mwakilama scored 37 goals for Malawian club Chitipa United to help it gain promotion to the country's top flight in 2017.
He joined Portuguese team Sporting Clube de Esmoriz and had scored seven goals in five games. His Malawi under-20 team was due to play the second leg of its qualifier against Swaziland on Sunday.