CHRISTOPH Metzelder has sobbed as he admitted to having "extreme fantasies" and sharing pictures of kids being raped.
The 40-year-old German World Cup star pleaded guilty to passing on 29 files with abuse images to three women via WhatsApp.
According to the case against him, 297 files with sexual content featuring children or teens were found on his mobile phone.
The public prosecutor told the court that in August 2019 that Metzelder sent photos showing the sexual abuse and rape of children under 10 years old.
After admitting the charges he was sentenced to ten months on probation, avoiding a possible three year jail sentence.
Metzelder said he obtained pictures that were available on the internet and took screenshots.
"In these chats I exchanged extreme fantasies, and it was also about the unspeakable," a sobbing Metzelder told Dusseldorf District Court.
“I know the unspeakable suffering behind each of these photos.
"I ask for forgiveness on behalf of all victims of sexual violence. I know I am leaving a wound that may never heal. "
Metzelder said he had never taken part in "attacks on children and youths… despite the graphic comments in the chats".
"It only took place in a digital parallel universe," he said.
Metzelder had been working as a pundit for Sky Sports Germany until he came under investigation in September 2019 but he has not addressed the accusations in public.
He said when the charges came to light, "marked a break with the past – professionally, socially and privately".
Metzelder told the court that he shared the images "although I know what horrible suffering inflicted on children is behind each digital file".
He said he would "accept the punishment" imposed by the court and asked for forgiveness from "the victims of sexual violence".
His lawyer Ulrich Sommer said last week Metzelder was in therapy, to help him address "certain issues such as sexuality or dealing with women in certain situations".
Sommer said the former centre-back was "shocked at himself for having had this kind of double life", but insisted his client is "obviously not" a paedophile.
Metzelder was part of the starting line-up in the finals of both the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2008, going on to make 47 appearances for Germany.
He played for major clubs such as Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in a career spanning 15 years.
He retired from football in 2014 and since 2006, Metzelder has run a foundation in his own name to support socially disadvantaged children across Germany.
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
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