File picture of Balotelli. - EPA
SEPANG: A reference to Italian footballer Mario Balotelli was only for comparison's sake, the Transport Ministry said, over the identity of stolen passport holders boarding missing flight MH370.
A ministerial statement clarified that Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abd Rahman used Balotelli to show that a person's nationality were not determined by their looks.
"No ill-feelings were meant to the personality concerned," said Transport Ministry crisis communications centre head V Mano.
Previously, Azharuddin had been asked to confirm a claim by Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi that the two imposters looked like Asians, which he denied.
He then said that Ghanian-born Balotelli was an Italian citizen, adding that nationality and race were not the same thing.
One of the two imposters has since been identified by police on Tuesday as 19-year-old Iranian known as Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad.
The other's identity has not been determined by police yet.