The Moroccan government has called on Adidas to pull its new jersey collection for Algeria’s national football team off the market, accusing the German sports apparel company of appropriating “Moroccan cultural heritage”.
Morocco’s Ministry of Youth, Culture and Communication said in a statement this week that the design on the jerseys of the rival North African team depicts a traditional mosaic of coloured earthenware tiles, known in Morocco as zellige.
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“It’s cultural appropriation, an attempted robbery of a form of traditional Moroccan cultural heritage,” the ministry said in the statement.
In a letter sent to Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted, Morocco demanded the withdrawal within two weeks of the jersey or that the company release a statement “to identify the zellige art of Morocco as an inspiration”.
It also threatened to bring the case “before organisations relating to the protection of heritage and copyrights”, including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Zellige art and craftwork are present and practised across North Africa and Andalusia, an autonomous region of Spain.
A lawyer for the Moroccan government told the Associated Press he was instructed by the culture ministry to send “a legal warning” to Adidas.
Adidas unveiled the new design last week, saying on its Middle East and North Africa Instagram account that the “Algeria culture wear collection” was inspired by the “architectural design of the iconic El Mechouar Palace” in the northern Algerian city of Tlemcen.
Relations between Algeria and Morocco have been tense over Western Sahara, a territory annexed by Morocco in 1975.
Sahrawis from the Algeria-backed Polisario Front have sought independence for the region for decades.
Algeria backs the Polisario movement in Western Sahara which Morocco regards as part of its own territory.
The border between Algeria and Morocco has been closed since 1994.
In August 2021, Algeria cut ties with Rabat, accusing it of “hostile acts”, but Morocco responded by saying it was “completely unjustified”.