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Qatar World Cup 2022: Adidas admits it used Morocco's zellige design on Algeria top

German sportswear brand apologises to Morocco but says it will not be withdrawing the shirt
Algeria first wore the top during a friendly football match with Guinea on 23 September 2022 in Oran (AFP)

German sports giant Adidas acknowledged on Friday that it had used a Moroccan art design on a jersey designed for the Algerian national football team after the strip caused outrage in Morocco.

Morocco, which is fiercely competitive with Algeria on and off the pitch, accused Adidas of "culturally appropriating" the zellige pattern common in Moroccan ceramics.

Last month, Mourad Elajouti, a lawyer acting on behalf of Morocco's cultural ministry, called on Adidas to withdraw the design and gave the sportswear brand two weeks' notice. 

Adidas admitted on Friday that it had used the zellige pattern, but said that the tops worn by Algeria would not be withdrawn. 

'We would like to express our deep respect to the people and craftsmen of Morocco and regret the controversy surrounding this case'

- Adidas

"The design was inspired indeed by the 'zellige' mosaics pattern, and was at no time intended to offend anyone," said the company in a statement.

"We would like to express our deep respect to the people and craftsmen of Morocco and regret the controversy surrounding this case."

Algeria first wore the top during a friendly match with Guinea on 23 September in Oran.

Elajouti welcomed the statement and said the case highlighted the need for Morocco to protect and defend its cultural heritage and the "ancestral know-how of Moroccan craftsmanship".

Algerian media, meanwhile, reported that Algeria is unhappy with Adidas and may terminate the contract.

When unveiling the shirt last month ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Adidas said it had been inspired by Algeria's culture and history. The company said the top took particular inspiration from the Mechoaur Palace in northwestern Algeria. 

Geopolitical competition in recent years has brought Algeria-Morocco relations to a nadir. 

Algiers supports the Polisario Front Sahrawi independence movement that is fighting Moroccan forces in Western Sahara, and Morocco has expressed support for a breakaway movement within Algeria. Morocco has also been accused of monitoring Algerian officials' phones with the Israeli Pegasus spyware, an accusation it denied.

In August 2021, Algeria severed all ties with Morocco over alleged "hostile acts".

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