Missing Malaysia Airlines plane: Malaysian authorities clarify that footballer Balotelli was merely used as reference

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK)- Italian footballer Mario Balotelli was roped into the crisis surrounding missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in a bid to shed light on the appearance of the two men who boarded the flight with stolen passports.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Crisis Communication Centre explained that Department of Civil Aviation director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman had merely used the footballer as a reference.

"No ill feelings were meant to the personality concerned. We hope this clarifies the issue," the statement said.

Mr Azharuddin had drawn flak from netizens over his remarks.

During a press conference on Monday, he had denied earlier reports which claimed that the two men were Asian-looking.

The DCA chief then sought to emphasise that skin colour does not indicate nationality by citing Balotelli - a Ghanaian-born striker with AC Milan - as an example.

"Do you know a footballer by the name of Bartoli (sic)? He's an Italian. Do you know what he looks like? Balotelli," he told reporters.

"I don't want to dwell about this but they (nationality and race) are not the same thing," he added.