Morocco has accused Adidas of appropriating Moroccan culture in its new collection for the Algerian national football team.
The Moroccan government has asked Adidas to withdraw its collection of Algerian national football team shirts from the market, accusing the German sportswear company of appropriating “Moroccan cultural heritage”.
Morocco’s Ministry of Youth, Culture and Communication said in a statement this week that the design of the rival North African team’s jerseys depicts a traditional mosaic of colorful earthenware tiles, known in Morocco as of zellig.
“This is cultural appropriation, an attempt to steal a form of traditional Moroccan cultural heritage,” the ministry said in a statement.
In a letter sent to Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted, Morocco demanded the jersey be retired within two weeks or the company issue a statement “to identify Morocco’s zellige art as a source of inspiration.”
He also threatened to take the case “before organizations linked to the protection of heritage and copyright”, including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
The art and craft of zellige are present and practiced throughout North Africa and in Andalusia, an autonomous region of Spain.
A Moroccan government lawyer told The Associated Press he had been 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 “Algerian culture clothing collection” was inspired by the “architectural design of the iconic El Mechouar Palace” in the city of Tlemcen, in northern Algeria.
Relations between Algeria and Morocco are strained over Western Sahara, a territory annexed by Morocco in 1975.
The Algerian-backed Sahrawis of the Polisario Front have been calling for the region’s independence for decades.
Algeria supports the Polisario movement in Western Sahara which Morocco considers to be 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”.