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(photo credit: Courtesy)
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 break out on his own and 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 Britain in soccer. The teen, who plays a defensive position, has been kicking around a soccer ball since the age of four. After playing in various elite soccer leagues in England such as QPR, West Ham and Tottenham, Sulkin sustained a knee injury and was unable to play.
"I was out for about a year," says Sulkin, "and that's why I'm so excited to be here. 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 soccer player in the Maccabiah Games, the third largest sporting event in the world, Sulkin is surrounded by young Jewish athletes from every background imaginable.
According to the teen, "Every athlete I've spoken to here is really nice. Everyone is very focused."
However, he says, the teams from Great Britain have the most spirit by far. During the opening ceremony on July 13th, an experience so monumental he says he'll remember it for the rest of his life, the "Great Britain teams were easily the loudest," owing to a great atmosphere with "everyone joking and always laughing."
The soccer team, Sulkin says, has had a lot more free time than he had originally expected, 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," says Sulkin.
The team members spent an exciting day rafting together and later went to pay their respects at Yad Vashem, an experience, according to Sulkin, that was "very emotional and interesting." This is Sulkin's second time visiting the country; the first was for his bar mitzva, which was held at the Western Wall. Because of his time spent in Jerusalem on his bar mitzva trip, he has come to "love the culture, the people, the foodâ€¦ just everything about Israel." Sulkin added, "I love how united Israel is as a country, as a family," and later joked that "the weather here is so much better than in London."
However, as talented a soccer player as he is, 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, Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley's father, has offered to help Sulkin further his acting career.
The two teens, despite being miles apart and having schedules that barely allow them a moment to breathe, have remained close.
When asked if he'd like Miley to come to Israel, Sulkin responded, "If she wasn't that busy, I'd love to persuade her to come to Israel, 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."