Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia on Tuesday said "no ill feelings" were meant by a transport official`s reference to black Italian footballer Mario Balotelli when discussing two suspicious passengers on a missing jet, a comment that triggered social media scorn.
"No ill feelings were meant to the personality concerned. We hope this clarifies the issue," said a statement by the Ministry of Transportation.
Civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman had been asked yesterday to confirm another official`s assertion that the two men who used stolen European passports to board missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 looked "Asian".
The plane vanished early Saturday with 239 people aboard while en route from Malaysia to China.
Azharuddin denied they looked Asian, but he sought to emphasise that skin colour does not indicate nationality, using as an example the Ghanaian-born AC Milan striker Balotelli, who is an Italian international.
"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 late yesterday. "I don`t want to dwell about this but they (nationality and race) are not the same thing."
Malaysian police later said one of the men was Iranian.