“Attempted Robbery”: Moroccan Government Fumes At Adidas Over New Algerian Soccer Jersey

“Attempted Robbery”: Moroccan Government Fumes At Adidas Over New Algerian Soccer Jersey

In a fiery statement, the Moroccan government has demanded that Adidas pull the new jersey it has created for Algeria’s national soccer team, claiming “cultural appropriation.”

Adidas’ depiction of zellige, traditional Moroccan earthenware tiles, on the Algerian shirt amounts to “an attempted robbery of a form of traditional Moroccan cultural heritage,” according to Morocco. With Morocco set to feature in Group F of the Qatar World Cup next month, catching the ire of the country’s government is the last thing Adidas will have wanted.

The German sportswear manufacturer has decided to remain silent on the Moroccan government’s demand. However, Moroccans are so incensed by the affront to their beloved tiles that government lawyer, Mourad Elajouti, has issued “a legal warning” to Adidas. 

In an email to the company, Elatouji commanded Adidas to remove the shirt within a fortnight or release a statement to “to identify the zellige art of Morocco as an inspiration” for Algeria’s new jerseys.

Adidas revealed the new jersey on 24 September on Instagram claiming that it was “inspired by the architectural design of the iconic El Mechouar palace in Tlemcen.” Moroccan Instagrammers, however, were far from impressed by the German company’s seeming appropriation of their culture.

“Stop stealing our culture, a big company like Adidas should research carefully before you put wrong information like this in which the Moroccan heritage is stolen and attributed to another country, please correct this fatal mistake, otherwise we will boycott the company,” wrote one user.

Just one day later, Adidas lifted the cover on Algeria’s jersey which featured a relatively bland green and white design and, so far, has created little consternation.

The North African country is set to play its first match of the World Cup against Croatia on 23 November. Algeria failed to qualify.

Adidas, perhaps inadvertently, seems to have stumbled into a political quagmire. The two countries have been feuding over Western Sahara, a territory seized by Morocco in 1975, while the border between the two countries has been closed since 1994. 

Perhaps fortuitously for the German company, zellige tiles can also be found across Andalusia in Spain, a reminder that successive North African dynasties used to control large chunks of southern Europe.

Closer to home, Nike revealed the new Socceroos jersey last month, inspired by “ the fearless determination and fighting spirit of the Socceroos and the rugged Australian landscape.”

Fellow German company Puma might have also inserted itself into some geopolitical hot water by creating a jersey for the Turkish Cypriot soccer team. Back in the 1970s, Turkey invaded the northern side of the Mediterranean island and the territory remains disputed. 

The new jersey features a black stripe on the front to show respect for fallen Turkish soldiers while a dove rear on the is apparently “indicative of the stance of the Turkish Cypriot side.”

Regardless of whether Adidas pulls the Algerian jersey from sale or not, the Qatar World Cup looks set to be one of the most controversial on record.

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