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Sunday, April 20, 2014

At 6-foot-6, Wings' Jobe is a tall tale

BY JEFFREY LUTZ
The Wichita Eagle

It's probably more fun to believe that Mulai Jobe, a forward for the Wings, is 6-foot-8 and the tallest professional indoor soccer player.

But he's not, no matter what the sellout crowd at Hartman Arena was told by the public-address announcer during the first-year team's opening game Nov. 3.

Jobe is actually 6-foot-6, but he said he went along with the billing as an unofficial record holder.

"It was just funny," Jobe said. "(Hall) just came to me before the game and said he was going to say it, so I just said, 'All right.' It's all for the fun of the crowd."

So if Jobe isn't the tallest man in indoor soccer, who is? Tough to say, since no records are kept.

"I'm not, (Hall) just said that. He's crazy," Jobe said. "I know for sure one of (my teammates) played with someone taller than me."

The improbability of a player of Jobe's height and athletic ability not being switched to basketball matches that of Jobe finding his way to the Wings.

Jobe, a 25-year-old rookie, was born in the western African country of Gambia before moving to Sweden in early childhood. He began playing soccer in Africa and continued in Sweden, where he played on several high-ranking junior teams.

He was guaranteed nothing when he came to Wichita as an unsigned invitee to training camp. But his raw ability and the possibilities that come with his long legs and scoring potential swayed Wings coach LeBaron Hollimon into handing Jobe one of the final five roster spots.

Jobe scored in Wichita's first game and became a hit with the crowd when he held both hands to his ears, soaking in the loudest cheers he has received.

"I was nervous, but (Hollimon) just told me to go out there and do your thing and have fun," Jobe said. "Once I scored that first goal, everything went black. You see me running around, I didn't even know what to do. I was just running around like a crazy person. It was amazing."

Jobe said his long-term professional goal is to thrive in outdoor soccer, but his skill set plays well indoors, where scoring isn't at as much of a premium. Jobe's height allows him to control jump balls, his long legs enable him to keep the ball away from defenders, and his powerful shot is practically dangerous to opponents.

On his restart goal in Wichita's opener, Jobe delivered the kick with so much force and velocity that Missouri goalkeeper Danny Waltman barely had time to react.

"I think my size gives me an advantage," Jobe said. "Right now I'm just trying to adjust to learning the (indoor) game. There are things that I don't know. But once I get them down in the next few weeks, it's going to help me even more."

There were several times that Jobe's shot attempts went several rows into the seats, so he has been working with Hollimon on playing with more finesse.

"He started teaching me how to use my side, like posting up and stuff like that," Jobe said. "I'm not used to the indoor game that much, but hopefully these next few weeks I could take more advantage of it."

Jobe's relationship with the indoor game continues to grow. Jobe himself is most likely done growing, and he probably won't reach his billed size or make it into record books based on his height. That's fine with him, since he would prefer not to be a circus act.

"I'm 6-foot-6," Jobe said. "He did that as a joke, probably, but I don't take that much seriously."

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