The British referees staying in Lake Highlands during Dallas Cup had the morning off today, so they visited schoolchildren at Vaughan Elementary in Allen ISD where Sandy Cocek teaches. For years, Sandy has been a “homestay” – their term for the LH families who welcome referees-in-training into their homes and hearts during the international youth soccer tournament.

Bright as copper pennies, the first graders listened intently then pelted their guests with questions.

“When you play soccer, can you use your hands?”

Only if you’re the goalie, Alasdair King from Scotland told her.

“Do you ever have to give red cards?”

Only when the players are naughty, said James Welsh from Salisbury.

“Have you ever reffed for FC Barcelona?”

Okay, that kid was a ringer. Big Ben, as the refs called him after that, demonstrated his extensive knowledge of English football despite the fact that he wore a Dirk Nowitzski basketball jersey to school. Oh, and – little known fact: Big Ben is the name for the bell, not the clock, on London’s famous tower, they told the kids.

“Why do you carry that chart?”

To keep track of players, substitutions and penalties, explained Craig Dean (the kids were fascinated that he kept his pencil in his sock). Craig and Alasdair are the guests of LH’s John and Leigh Ann Hicks.

Oliver Bickle and Adam Dean blew their referee whistles indoors (the children squealed with delight), and Lucy and James, bunking in my home, played a game involving red and yellow penalty cards. Alan Bennett and Mark Chalkley, staying with Rick and Terri Hawkins, taught their charges a song about the Grand Old Duke of York which involved learning a bit of history and moving about in their chairs.

“They were very interested and showed a surprising knowledge of the game,” Alasdair told me. “Lots have played on teams, and it helped that Jenny Hare [the teacher] had used red and yellow cards to control her classroom.”

A few kids, including one wearing a Drew Brees jersey, asked about the difference between soccer and American football.

“And do you PLAY soccer?”

I tried, said Craig with a laugh. That’s why I ref.

I prefer to be the boss, admitted Alasdair.