The Moroccan government called on sports apparel company Adidas to pull off the market its new jersey collection for Algeria’s national football team, alleging that the featured mosaic pattern amounted to “cultural appropriation” of Moroccan heritage.
Morocco’s Ministry of Youth, Culture and Communication said in a statement 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 statement said.
Zellige art and craftwork is present and practiced across North Africa and Andalusia, an autonomous region of Spain.
Adidas did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
A lawyer for the Moroccan government, Mourad Elajouti told the AP he was instructed by the culture ministry to send “a legal warning” to Adidas.
In an email to Adidas executives, Elajouti demanded that the German company remove the collection within two weeks or release a statement “to identify the zellige art of Morocco as an inspiration” for the design of the Algerian team’s jerseys.
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.
Morocco made its complaint as tensions between the two North African neighbors have deepened. They stem largely from a dispute over the Western Sahara, a territory annexed by Morocco in 1975. Sahrawis from the Algeria-backed Polisario Front have sought independence for the region for decades.