The Moroccan government has called on Adidas to remove its new jersey collection for the Algerian national soccer team from the market and accused the German sportswear company of appropriating “Moroccans” cultural heritage.”
Morocco’s Ministry of Youth, Culture and Communications said in a statement this week that the design of the rival North African team’s jerseys depicts a traditional mosaic of colored earthenware tiles known in Morocco as Zellige.
“It is cultural appropriation, an attempted robbery of a form of traditional Moroccan cultural heritage,” the ministry said in the statement.
In a letter to Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted, Morocco called for withdrawal within two weeks of wearing the shirt or publishing a statement “to identify Morocco’s cellular art as an inspiration.”
She also threatened to bring the case “before organizations concerned with heritage and copyright protection,” including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Cellular arts and crafts are present and practiced throughout North Africa and Andalusia, an autonomous region of Spain.
A lawyer from the Moroccan government told the Associated Press that he had been ordered by the Ministry of Culture to send Adidas “a legal warning.”
Adidas unveiled the new design last week and said on its Instagram account in the Middle East and North Africa that the “Algeria Culture Wear Collection” was inspired by the “architectural design of the legendary El Mechouar Palace” in the northern Algerian city of Tlemcen.
Relations between Algeria and Morocco were tense in Western Sahara, an area annexed by Morocco in 1975.
Sahrawis from the Algerian-backed Polisario Front have been striving for the region’s independence for decades.
Algeria supports the Polisario movement in Western Sahara, which sees Morocco 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 and accused it of “hostile acts,” but Morocco responded by saying it was “completely unjustified.”