RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Adidas acknowledged on Friday that the design for its new jersey collection for Algeria’s national soccer team was inspired by Morocco’s zellige mosaic pattern, resolving a dispute with the Moroccan government that had accused the sport apparel company of “cultural appropriation” of its heritage.
Morocco’s Ministry of Youth, Culture and Communication demanded last month that Adidas pull the new collection off the market alleging 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.
A lawyer for the Moroccan government, Mourad Elajouti, sent “a legal warning” to Adidas on Sept. 30, demanding that the German company removed the collection within two weeks or released a statement “to identify the zellige art of Morocco as an inspiration” for the design of the Algerian team’s jerseys.
Adidas said in a statement Friday that “the design was inspired indeed by the zellige mosaic pattern, and was at no time intended to offend anyone.” The statement also confirmed “a positive resolution to the recent football jersey issue.”
The company added it has “deep respect for the people and craftsmen of Morocco,” prompting officials in the North African country to express pride over its efforts to defend Moroccan cultural heritage on the global stage.
“This case demonstrated to us tangibly the importance of protecting Moroccan cultural heritage,” Elajouti, the government lawyer, said in a statement on Friday. The jersey dispute has been favorably resolved to underline “the pivotal role Morocco plays in the region in defending the intangible cultural heritage in the face of cultural appropriation attempts,” he said.
Zellige art and craftwork is present and practiced across North Africa and Andalusia, an autonomous region of Spain.
Decades-old tensions between Morocco and Algeria have deepened in recent years. 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.
Adidas unveiled the new design last month, 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.