It’s a new squabble between Algeria and Morocco, but this one takes place around a football field. Or, more precisely, around the new pre-match warm-up jerseys of the Algerian national football teams.
On September 27, through the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Communication, the Moroccan government instructed lawyer Mourad ElAddi to summon the German equipment manufacturer Adidas to withdraw these jerseys. Reason: these constitute a theft of the national heritage of Morocco.
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The next day, Me ElAddi therefore sent a formal notice to Adidas, by e-mail and, by way of a bailiff, to its head office in Germany, demanding that the company “remove this collection of jerseys within fifteen days”. . He asks him, in case of deficiency, ” of provide for a communication relating to the patterns used from the art of Moroccan zellige, and, possibly, to pay part of the profits to Moroccan craftsmen who hold the rights. »
Threats of legal action
In this letter addressed to Kasper Rorsted, CEO of the Adidas Group, and whose Young Africa has obtained a copy, the Moroccan Ministry of Culture says it reserves the right to use “all possible legal remedies before German and international courts, as well as before organizations relating to the protection of heritage and the rights of authors, Unesco and WIPO [Organisation mondiale de la propriété intellectuelle], in order to protect the elements of Moroccan cultural heritage from illicit attempts at appropriation. »
The case dates back to September 23, when Adidas, under contract with the Algerian Football Federation (FAF) until January 2023, unveiled the Algerian team’s new jerseys on its Twitter account, featuring Benayada and Zerrouki. , from the Fennecs team, as well as a player from the women’s national team.
This new collection, says Adidas, is inspired by the motifs of the El Mechouar palace, a royal building located in Tlemcen, west of Algiers, and built in 1248 under the Zianides dynasty.
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For the lawyer mandated by the Moroccan government, the patterns “used in this new design include representations of the art of Moroccan zellige, which is akin to a clear attempt at cultural appropriation through [la] marque. »
Likening this design to a “political manoeuvre” and a “desire to suppress one culture in favor of another”, Me ElAddi indicates that the squares of ceramic glazed appeared for the first time in Morocco in the Xe century and that “the motifs present in the palace of Mechouar in Tlemcen are of Moroccan inspiration and were seen for the first time in the madrasa Bū ʿInāniyā in Fez and the madrasa-zāwiya in Chellah. »
The Algerian Football Federation says it is “not concerned”
Vice-president of the Club of lawyers of Morocco, which brings together 400 lawyers, the lawyer also specifies in this formal notice that these reasons used “are inspired by reasons present in the monuments of the Medina of Fez and on the site of Chellah, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1981 and 1985.
From couscous to raï…
Contacted by Young Africa, a source at the Algerian Football Federation indicates that this collection of jerseys had been validated by the former staff of the federation, at the time headed by Charaf-Eddine Amara, but that this formal notice does not concern the FAF. A source at Adidas specifies, meanwhile, that the equipment manufacturer “does not comment on current affairs. »
Morocco-Algeria: cultural heritage, a new battlefield?
This new controversy comes in a context of tensions between Rabat and Algiers, which no longer have diplomatic relations since August 2021. Tensions and disagreements between the two neighbors sometimes go beyond the political framework. Controversies and other battles have opposed Algerians and Moroccans, for example around the paternity of couscous, supposedly carcinogenic Algerian dates, or the origin of raï, whose cradle is located in the west of Algeria and to the east from Morocco.