|(Flight MH370) Eyebrows raised over Malaysian aviation chief’s insensitive ‘Balotelli’ remark
Malaysia’s civil aviation chief came under fire on social media for referencing black Italian footballer Mario Balotelli when discussing two passengers who boarded a missing jet carrying European passports stolen in Thailand.
Civil aviation director general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (Pictured) had been asked to confirm another official's assertion that the two men who boarded missing Malaysia Airlines flight to Beijing looked “Asian.’’
Azharuddin denied they appeared Asian, but he sought to emphasize that skin color does not indicate nationality by using a reference to Balotelli – a Ghanaian-born striker with AC Milan and 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 officials later clarified that there was no suggestion either of the suspect passengers was black, but Twitter users commented that Azharuddin's strained comparison had not helped matters.
One said: “Nice work in looking for the least obvious cause for an airplane crash.''
“The case of the missing airplane, somehow, just got weirder,'' another said.
Malaysian authorities, who say they have CCTV footage of the stolen-passport users, have come under increasing pressure from families who have complained of a slow response and inadequate information.
One of the stolen passports was Italian, the other Austrian. The revelation has raised fears of a hijack or terror motive behind the plane's disappearance.
“Yes, I think the Balotelli profile referring to the two phantom passengers is insensitive,'' another user posted.
“And you wonder why Balotelli wears ‘why always me?''' another one posted, referring to a T-shirt worn once by the controversial footballer after one of his many brushes with authority.