LEICESTER, United Kingdom – An acid attack on an Irish youth international soccer player and his friends was “horrific and shocking,” according to Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore.

Sixteen-year-old Tega Agberhiere and two friends were splashed with a substance police believe to be drain cleaner during an altercation in Waterford on April 25. The substance hit Agberhiere in the face, causing permanent scarring and temporarily blinding the youth. The other two victims were treated and released.

Agberhiere plays for the youth side of Waterford United, and has represented Ireland at international youth tournaments. He has had trials at two Premier League clubs, Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace.

Doctors are optimistic that he will get his full sight back.

“Thank God he is improving, and can now see in both eyes. We send him and his colleagues our prayers and best wishes,” Cullinan said in a statement on May 5.

“This cowardly act of throwing a corrosive substance into the face of another human being and running away is in stark contrast to the very dignified and brave response of Tega’s mother Christy who expressed the wish that: ‘We want to stay in a safe community. We want to stay in a safe Waterford. We want to stay in a safe Ireland as a whole.’”

“Our society must embrace Christy’s plea. It must be the wish of the whole community to live in peace and goodwill,” the bishop continued.

Agberhiere’s parents are from Nigeria, although there is so far no indication there was a racial motive to the attack.

Speaking to local radio station WLR FM, the youth said he was “grateful to everyone who has sent messages and said nice things.”

“I’m getting better every day, I’m feeling less pain and I’m grateful for all the messages,” he said. “I can see from both eyes, but they’re a little swollen so it’s hard to open them … I can’t describe the pain.”

Irish police arrested four people after the incident, but they were later released without charge.

“Hopefully those who perpetrated this awful act will be brought to justice. May we all try to live in peace with our neighbor and do what we can to build up rather than tear down,” Cullinan said.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar promised the people responsible “will face the full rigors of the law,” adding that “nobody wants to see that kind of thing happening in our country.”

“You really have to wonder what kind of poison exists in the mind of somebody who would throw acid on another person, somebody who would try to disfigure somebody. It’s terrifying, quite frankly,” Varadkar said.