Actor Gregg Sulkin has recently made waves as the teen heartthrob boyfriend of actress-singer Miley Cyrus. However, the 17-year-old is also a soccer star ready to make a name for himself — not only in Hollywood, but in the 2009 Maccabiah Games as well.
Sulkin, who has acted in various films and television shows — including the Disney Channel comedy “As the Bell Rings” and the Paul Weiland film “Sixty Six” with Helena Bonham Carter — has come to Israel, his second visit to the country, to represent the U.K. in soccer.
The teen, who plays a defensive position, has been kicking around a soccer ball since the age of four. But after playing in a number of elite soccer leagues in England, Sulkin sustained a knee injury and was unable to play.
“I was out for about a year, and that’s why I’m so excited to be here,” Sulkin said. “The first time I played since my injury was at the trial for Maccabiah, so I was happy I didn’t really lose my touch. Obviously I was a bit rusty, but I still hadn’t lost it completely.”
As a perticipant in the Maccabiah Games, Sulkin is surrounded by young Jewish athletes from every background imaginable.
During the opening ceremony July 13th, the “Great Britain teams were easily the loudest,” Sulkin said, noting that at the ceremony “everyone [was] joking and always laughing.”
The soccer team, he noted, has had a lot more free time than he had anticipated, presumably due to the intense four-day practices it had prior to its arrival in Israel. “We’re as prepared as we can possibly be, so the managers let us have as much free time as we can. It’s good to have a break once in a while,” he said.
The team members spent a day rafting together and later went to pay their respects at Yad Vashem — an experience Sulkin called “very emotional.”
This is Sulkin’s second time visiting the country; the first was for his bar mitzvah, which was held at the Western Wall. In the time he’s spent in Israel he has come to “love the culture, the people, the food… just everything about Israel,” Sulkin said.
And, he joked, “the weather here is so much better than in London.”
However, as much as he enjoys soccer, Sulkin’s ambitions lie elsewhere. He has attended numerous auditions in England for American roles, and he is flying to Los Angeles directly after the Maccabiah Games in order to attend callbacks. An appearance on his girlfriend’s television show, “Hannah Montana,” is a possibility, but if that doesn’t work out, Cyrus’ father, Billy Ray Cyrus, has offered to help Sulkin further his acting career.
Despite being miles apart and having schedules that barely allow them a moment to breathe, Sulkin and Cyrus have remained close.
“If she wasn’t that busy, I’d love to persuade her to come to Israel,” Sulkin said. “But she’s amazing at what she does and that’s why she’s always so busy. I wish she could come to Israel. Next Maccabiah, hopefully.”