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A family affair as Sulcas trio head for games

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Team Maccabi South Africa’s padel convenor, Rob Sulcas, will be competing in his fifth Maccabi Games in his fourth sport, padel, a game making its debut at this year’s Maccabiah. Having previously competed in squash, football, and tennis, Sulcas has won two bronze medals and a silver for tennis, and a bronze for squash.

He will be at the games with his two sons, 20-year-old Jamie and 18-year-old Benjamin, who are in South Africa’s open futsal team.

“It’s an absolute privilege to be representing South Africa at my fifth games and to be part of the Maccabiah organisation,” says Sulcas. “The fifth is just a number. I’m lucky to have had the opportunities before and much more importantly, to be able to go and have both my kids playing at the same time. A real family affair. What a lucky guy I am!”

His Maccabiah journey started as an under-15 squash player at the 1985 edition. In 2009, he played soccer in the over 35 category before competing in tennis in the 2013 and 2015 games.

“It’s been a nice transformation,” says Sulcas. “Now I’m going to play padel, a real mixture of squash and tennis. Squash has always been in the Sulcus ambit, with my late dad being a very good squash player. I was a squash player when I was young and then started playing tennis when I was about 16. When padel came along, I found it a little bit easier on the body. It was something new. Everything else went out the window and all I actually do now is play padel. I’ve always been an avid soccer player as well. Both my kids love soccer.”

His sons both say it’s “amazing” to be going to the games as a family.

“Not many people can say that their sibling and dad are representing South Africa with them at the games, so I’m excited,” says Benjamin.

“It’s going to feel quite cool when I pass the ball to my brother,” says Jamie, who will be turning 21 during the games.

Both brothers, alumni of Herzlia in Cape Town, got into futsal, a fast-paced indoor five-a-side football game, when hearing about trials for the sport and making their respective teams.

“Usually, we’ve been training two or three times a week,” says Jamie. “But in the past month or two, we’ve really ramped it up.”

Speaking about the futsal team’s coach, Reon Siyaya, Benjamin says, “He’s a good coach who has a lot of knowledge about the game. We all trust his knowledge and that his tactics will come right.”

“We hope to get a medal,” says Jamie. “We think it’s possible, but we’re really not sure how good the other teams are. It’s not as though their games are televised and we can accurately judge, so we are sort of going in there blind. I think we’re well prepared, but anything could happen. The other teams could all be absolutely amazing, or not.”

It won’t be the brothers’ first time at an overseas tournament, as they played futsal at the 2019 European Maccabi Games in Budapest. “That was my Maccabi highlight because both my boys were there as well,” says Sulcas, who played tennis at those games. “Regarding performance, probably the 2015 Maccabi Games was the highlight. I got a silver medal for tennis, losing in the final of the doubles and in the semifinal of the singles. But it’s not just about winning medals. It’s more about the camaraderie, meeting new people, and travelling for sport.”

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