We all know that “El Clásico”– the epic Madrid v. Barcelona face-off –is the biggest club match in the world. Around 600 million people in nearly two hundred countries tuned in on Saturday to watch Real Madrid crush Barça 2-1.
Each team has paid astronomical amounts for their star-studded line-ups: Madrid’s players cost $805 million in total, while Barcelona is not far behind with $789 million of talent on the field and Messi at the top of the pyramid, according to the website Transfermarkt.
So it’s no wonder that to earn back the cost of all those expensive players and then some, the owners of the teams charge whatever they can, knowing devotees will still flock to the stadium. For the 90,000 privileged fans who landed a seat at Barcelona’s Camp Nou, the average ticket price was $1,400. The 140,000 season ticket holders are given priority at the sale, squeezing out most available spots. Trying to score a ticket on the black market gave me a panic attack when I saw the prices.
So where do regular fans in Barcelona, who don’t have hundreds of dollars to spare, go to see the big game? As a newcomer to the city, I had heard there were several bars and restaurants where people sit rapt in front of big screens over their cañas and patatas bravas. Many others stay home with friends.
But Catalonia’s capital offers another way to live the Derbi – a soothing mix between your own living room and your favorite pub – Cannabis Clubs.
In the past several years, the clubs have sprung up all over Barcelona, taking advantage of Spanish laws that allow people to grow their own weed and smoke it in private, or enjoy it with a group of enthusiasts in a ‘social club.’ Unlike the coffeeshops of Amsterdam, you have to be a member to get in. Some clubs require an existing member to endorse you. You must present an official Spanish ID and a local residential address. Kids under 18 need not apply.
Open the door to a Cannabis Club and like Alice down the rabbit hole, you will end up tumbling into a legal loophole.
Members pay an annual membership fee ranging from 15 to 60 Euros depending the club’s quality and exclusivity. Because buying and selling weed is still illegal in Spain, the clubs say that any money exchanged is for the expenses of maintaining the club, the costs of growing and processing marijuana, as well as maintenance and upkeep of the shared space. Open the door to a Cannabis Club and like Alice down the rabbit hole, you will end up tumbling into a legal loophole.
Once inside you will be met with dazzling variety: AK-47, Super Diesel, Blue Cheese, Mango Kush, White Rhino or Purple Haze. Also on the menu: snacks for serious munchies, like cheeseburgers.
I was brought to this wonderland by my Catalonian roommate, a Barça fan that enjoys all the games at his local Cannabis club. Sometimes he just meets up with friends, plays some video games, has a beer or a glass of wine with his joint.
But today the game was on. We all gathered around the TV – and aside from the thick haze, it was a familiar scene repeated across the city: Barça chants, all types of rudeness against Real Madrid’s players, and of course the referee.
After the first goal, the place transformed into what seemed like a somber funeral, brightened briefly by Piqué, only to be devastated again by Christiano Ronaldo’s final goal. The agonizing defeat of Barcelona’s home champions was the first white squad victory at Camp Nou in four years.
My roommate finds refuge at his club even in these dark moments because he can blaze away the pain with like-minded comrades. “Tío, I feel like I’m at home,” he sighed.