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Morocco Accuses Algeria of 'Cultural Appropriation' in Football Kit Controversy

Lolade Adewuyi |
From Brazil's iconic yellow jerseys to Croatia's red-and-white checkerboard, football kits tell stories of their own. Now, however, Algeria's controversial new training shirt has stoked tensions with neighbors Morocco.

Morocco have accused Algeria and Adidas of cultural appropriation

The Moroccan government has accused neighbors Algeria of "cultural appropriation" over its national football team's new training kit which was unveiled by manufacturer Adidas last week.

Despite the Algerians having failed to qualify for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, Adidas unveiled its new "culture wear collection" on social media on September 23, claiming that the eyecatching design was inspired by the Mechouar Palace in Tlemcen, Algeria.

However, Morocco's culture ministry has claimed that the blue and yellow geometric pattern, common in Moroccan "zellige" mosaics, represented an appropriation of its culture and accused Adidas of cultural theft.

Mourad Elajouti, a Moroccan lawyer representing the culture ministry, wrote on Facebook that he had sent a letter of complaint to Adidas about the issue.

"We alerted the company that this was cultural appropriation and an attempt to steal an element of traditional Moroccan cultural heritage and use it outside its context, which contributes to the loss and distortion of the identity and history of these cultural elements," Elajouti wrote.

Algeria has yet to respond.

What is the zellige mosaic?

The unmistakeable "zellige" mosaic is a traditional type of pattern that emerged in north Africa and has since become a part of the Islamic culture in the region, as well as on the Iberian peninsula where the influence of the Arab world once spread. The designs can famously be seen on the walls of mosques.

The clay used to make the bricks is taken from Fez and Meknes in Morocco.

The dispute has gained extra traction due to long-running disgreements betweenMorocco and Algeria over the Western Sahara,with the two countries having fought two wars over their shared 2,000 km (1,242 miles) border, which has been a source of tension since both acquired independence from French colonial rule.

More World Cup jersey controversies

This isn't the first time that football kits have caused political controversy.

Danish kit maker Hummel announced this week that they were toning down Denmark's World Cup jerseys as a form of protest against Qatar's human rights records and the treatment of migrant workers who built the stadiums.

The Danish sportswear company have released monochrome kits which camouflage its logo while also launching an all-black third kit, which it said signified the "colour of mourning."

"This shirt carries with it a message," the manufacturer wrote on Twitter. "We don't wish to be visible during a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives. We support the Danish national team all the way, but that isn't the same as supporting Qatar as a host nation."

Qatar has disputed Hummel's claims that the tournament has cost the lives of thousands and referred to its reforms and improved living conditions it has given workers over the years.

Meanwhile in Brazil, many fans of the Seleção are opting to wear the team's blue away strips rather than the iconic yellow jerseys of the five-times world champions, which have become associated with right-wing populist president Jair Bolsonaro.

And at Euro 2020, Austria, who have traditionally played in red or white, suddenly revealed turquoise shorts - a color which has never been associated with Austria, until it became the color of former chancellor Sebastian Kurz's ÖVP party in 2017.

Edited by Matt Ford.

Courtesy: DW

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