Morocco demands the withdrawal of the Algerian national football team's jerseys

The cause is that the Alawi kingdom denounces that this sports equipment shows drawings inspired by the Moroccan zellige, which would be an appropriation of a Moroccan cultural element

REUTERS/IBRAHEEM AL OMARI  -   Algeria national football team

Morocco has called for the withdrawal from the market of the Algerian national football team's sports equipment because the Kingdom believes that its design is based on Moroccan zellige representations and that this would be a misappropriation of a Moroccan cultural symbol, according to Al-Arab. 

The zellige is a representation, usually on handmade Moroccan ceramic tile, with an immense variety of shades and transparencies characterised by its variability in colour, shape, dimension and surface texture. And now it is the subject of controversy. 

Mourad El-Agouti, president of the Moroccan Lawyers Club, said that the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Communication had instructed him to issue a legal complaint to the legal representative of Adidas, the brand that dresses the Algerian national team, as reported by Al-Arab.  

The complaint filed with the German headquarters of Adidas is based on the use of Moroccan cultural heritage patterns for sports jersey designs attributed to other countries, in this case Algeria.  

The case came to the fore after images of models wearing the new sports equipment with the alleged Moroccan zellige representations were distributed on social media.  

"We alerted the company that this was a cultural appropriation and an attempt to steal a form of traditional Moroccan cultural heritage and use it out of context, which contributes to the loss and distortion of the identity and history of these cultural elements," El Agouti said on the social network Facebook.  

This new episode is part of the rivalry between two Maghreb neighbours, Morocco and Algeria, countries with political differences that strain relations in the North African region.  

The last major show of disaffection came in August last year when Algeria decided to break off diplomatic relations with Morocco over deep political differences, including the Western Sahara issue.  

Morocco proposes a formula of broad autonomy for Western Sahara under the sovereignty of the Kingdom in compliance with UN resolutions. This proposal has received the support of important countries such as Germany and Spain, especially after Donald Trump's US administration recognised the Moroccan sovereignty of the Sahara in December 2020 in exchange for the Alawi kingdom establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, following in the wake of the Abraham Accords, under which several Arab nations such as the Emirates and Bahrain established ties with the Israeli state with the aim of pacifying the Middle East and developing the region economically and socially.  

Against this trend, there is the position of the Polisario Front, which advocates holding a referendum on independence for the Sahrawi population, which has less international support, including that of Algeria.  

There are also other conflicts such as those related to competition in other areas, such as the mining sector, with disputes in this case over the ownership of border exploitations between the two countries, as occurred in the case of the break-up by Algeria, as denounced by Morocco, of the pact for the joint exploitation of the Ghara Jbilet mining complex, or other political disputes over the ownership of social or cultural symbols, even gastronomic ones, such as the debate that broke out last year over the origin of couscous.  

To ease the tension somewhat, Morocco's King Mohammed VI made a conciliatory speech to the Algerian authorities on the occasion of the celebration of the Feast of the Throne in July: 'We hope to work with the Algerian presidency to bring Morocco and Algeria together, to establish normal relations between two brotherly peoples, united by historical traditions and human ties and a common destiny'. It seems, however, that no response of the same level has come from the opposite side in the same vein.