The Moroccan government has called on Adidas to pull its new jersey collection for Algeria’s national football team from 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 colored earthenware tiles, known in Morocco as zellige.
“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 released a statement “to identify the zellige art of Morocco as an inspiration”.
It also threatened to bring the case “before organizations relating to the protection of heritage and copyrights”, including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Zellige art and craftwork are present and practiced 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.