Spain: Badalona Dracs kicker Sergi Güibas Arnau also shines as a movie director

Badalona Dracs kicker Sergi Güibas Arnau has his own IMDb page.

In Spain, where American football is considered more of a hobby and a majority of players hold some other career, it’s not exactly strange, but it does stand out. After all, there aren’t any NFL kickers who also have the title of  “Director, Writer and Producer” next to their names.

First, it’s important to know Güibas uses both of his last names with regularity, but each in its own context. When you search for “Sergi Arnau,” you will find information about his film career and life away from the football field. Look up Sergi Güibas and you will come across his Hudl page as it’s the name he uses in professional American football.

Dive deeper, and you’ll see Arnau’s name attached to award-winning films such as Lone Wolves (2019). He also helped direct, write and produce Descent into Hell (2012) and Fruta Podrida (2015).

His film career often catches new teammates off guard when he brings it up, often with humility when conversations turn toward favorite movies or films. Now 38 years old, Güibas feels content and filled with joy as he reflects on his film and American football career, two paths that have led him on a journey all over the world and back, once again, to Catalunya.

Kicker Sergi Güibas Arnau, 3rd from left, directing a scene from “Descent in Hell”

Güibas’ love for American football traces back to 2003 and Super Bowl XXXVII between the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Shortly after he spent an entire evening transfixed to his family’s television set an ocean away from San Diego, California, Güibas searched for American football teams near him. He found the Badalona Dracs and remembers reaching out to Jordi Soler through email who encouraged him to come and try out. The rest is history.

“I loved that they welcomed me as another member of their family from the first day,” Güibas said.

Güibas’ first sport was soccer, which he started playing when he was 10 years old. With that background, he found himself intrigued with the kicker position in American football and wondered how his technique developed through playing soccer would translate. What Güibas quickly learned was that kicking a football made of pigskin involved a much different type of skill than a kicking one made of synthetic rubber.

Luckily, he would have a great mentor with the Dracs, or so he thought at the time. When he joined the Dracs, Mariano Angoy –– one of the best kickers in the history of the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Americano who had recently come from playing with the Barcelona Dragons –– kicked for the senior team. Güibas trained with Angoy for one session before the experienced kicker announced his retirement from the sport a week later.

Shocked when he first heard the news, everything soon sunk in. Doors were opening much quicker than anticipated and that’s when he realized he still had so much to learn after being thrust into the new role.

“I still didn’t really know anything about American football,” Güibas said. “Suddenly I was the starting kicker for the Dracs.”

Movie poster for “Lone Wolves”

Güibas quickly learned that finding a good kicking coach, someone who knows techniques such as the specific run-up to a kick or how to line up with the ball, is neither easy nor cheap. Instead, he began to teach himself through a combination of YouTube videos and repetition.

“I watched videos of American high school coaches and how they teach kickers,” Güibas said. “I thought it would be easier today with YouTube and the internet to learn, but we still don’t have enough information here in Spain.”

Güibas kicked for both the Dracs’ juniors and senior team his first season, sometimes playing multiple games in a single weekend, but many of his favorite memories at a young age came during the offseason when he played for Dracs B. That team played in the Catalan league and fielded several junior players in a league full of teams made up of senior players. Güibas will never forget kicking in the league final that season.

“That team was made up of several players who later became the pillars for the Dracs senior teams that won multiple national championships,” Güibas said. “We had so much talent and an excellent coach in [Alfonso] Molongua who helped us enjoy the game at such a young age.”

As he chased a career in professional sports, Güibas found an opportunity to play American football in Toluca, Mexico, for the Instituto Tecnológico de Toluca in Mexico’s ONEFA (Organización Nacional Estudiantil de Futbol Americano) college league during the Dracs’ offseason. During that time, the kicker was playing several seasons over the course of one year: September to December in Mexico, February to June in Spain and July to December back in Mexico.

Sergi kicking for the Instituto Tecnológico de Toluca in Mexico’s ONEFA college football league

While a busy time, Güibas loved his time in Mexico and will never forget when his team played against Pumas UNAM at the Estadio Olímpico Universitario and he got to kick in front of over 30,000 fans in an incredible environment.

In the late 2000’s Güibas faced a difficult decision, compounded by the strong feeling of burnout after a stretch in which he trained multiple hours for every day of the week for 11 months. He signed with an agent who found him an offer to kick in the Canadian Football League as well as opportunities to try out at Division One schools in the United States, one of which was the University of Texas.

After much thought, Güibas turned those opportunities down as he couldn’t see himself spending another five years maintaining the same routine without it taking a significant mental toll.

Around the age of 26, he took a decade-long hiatus to pursue a different career: film. Güibas remembers being inspired by the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Stanley Kubrick, David Fincher and Martin Scorsese as a kid and even wrote a complete film script for fun during his late teenage years. Why not give the movies a shot, he thought.

That decision brought him back to Barcelona, where he studied at the Centre d’Estudis Cinematogràfics de Catalunya for four years. The school gave him a sense of freedom he hadn’t experienced before, especially creatively. During his time at the university, Güibas  helped produce and animate several movies as well as worked on short films, some of which won awards at international short film festivals.

Sergi Güibas Arnau (far right)

Güibas’ biggest film breakthrough came in 2019, when the film Lone Wolves, a project he worked on with several college peers over the course of several years, was finally released. A film with a 4,000 Euro budget –– 3,000 of which was crowd-funded –– won “Best Foreign Feature Film” at the October Film Festival and “Best Script” at the Sant Cugat Fantàstic in 2020.

Three years ago, as Spain emerged from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Güibas felt a pull to return to professional sports. Soon after he was back with the Dracs, who were in need of a kicker.

Currently living in Girona, over an hour away by car, what keeps Güibas coming out to Badalona multiple times each week? He says it’s the team environment and the opportunity to play a unique sport different from the ones so many of his peers play.

“Soccer is more individual where every player is for himself,” Güibas said. “In football, if someone doesn’t make their block, the kicker can’t do anything. It’s the job of the team and I like winning in that way more than winning individually.”

Güibas considers himself lucky to be able to pursue two different paths in which he has found plenty of success. His love of film will always be there, but there’s also just something about American football, the sport that sucked him in ever since watching the Raiders and Buccaneers in the Super Bowl all those years ago, that has intrigued him ever since.