To some extent, sport has always been global. While something like 90million Americans watch the Super Bowl live every year, that number is augmented by anything from 30-50million watching it in other countries. Although Real Madrid are based in the Spanish capital, you’ll see their jersey worn on all continents and their players are idols far beyond the borders of Spain. This has been the case for decades. But more recently, the sporting world has shrunk even smaller than most of us realize.

With a soccer World Cup coming up at the end of the year, it won’t just be the big hitters like Brazil and France that draw the attention of a global audience. Although players such as Neymar and Paul Pogba have their global fanbases, sporting fandom now goes deeper and further than it ever has before. A major reason for this is the internet, and thanks to the technology that is more a part of our lives than ever, soccer fans will not go into this tournament unaware of the skills of Canadian, Cameroonian and Costa Rican stars. Let’s look at how a digital revolution has made global sport a local interest…

You can stream matches from almost anywhere

Even a decade or two ago, if you were on holiday or working overseas, you’d hope that there was an internet cafe you could go to at a reasonable time when your team was playing. Maybe, just maybe, you could time it just right so that you’d be able to catch an update telling you whether they had won or lost. Now it’s possible to stream a game from any corner of the planet, and it’s not just Super Bowls or Champions League games you can pick up. The chances are that your team – even if it’s an unheralded club from a lower-tier sporting nation – is being covered by a streaming service.

You can bet across borders

For many of us, placing a wager or two on a weekend or a weeknight makes sport more engaging. But depending on where you are in the world, betting can be tricky, with domestic provision either non-existent or very limited. If a domestic provider knows that you’re using VPN tech to hide your location – and they often will – they can ban you from their platform. That’s one reason why crypto betting sites like Cloud bet, which goes across borders without you needing to worry about betting in the right currency or alerting the site to offshore betting.

Social media brings fans together

If you were a lacrosse fan growing up in 1980s Belgium, two things were certain: you’d never get to see a first-class game live, and you’d think you were the only Belgian lacrosse fan in existence. The first of those simply isn’t the case any more, and thanks to social media, it’s easy to find people with a common interest.

Even if none of your neighbors share your sporting interests, you can still chat with people who are as committed to a sport, a team or a player as you are. For example, Welsh soccer player Chris Gunter may not be the global star that his teammate Gareth Bale has become, but he does have a substantial Chinese following thanks to the internet. That’s something that is weird and wonderful, and only possible due to the digital age.