Former Germany international defender Christoph Metzelder has pleaded guilty to sharing images that show child sex abuse.
According to the case against him, 297 files with content featuring children or teens being sexually exploited were found on Metzelder's mobile phone.
And the 40-year-old admitted to a Düsseldorf court on Thursday that he shared the pornographic files with three women via WhatsApp.
The prosecutor also told the court that Metzelder sent photos in August 2019 showing the sexual abuse and rape of children under 10 years old.
After admitting the charges, Metzelder was sentenced to ten months on probation, avoiding a possible three year jail sentence.
He apologised to the victims and said he would return all awards handed to him for founding a child poverty charity.
I took screenshots of incriminating images on freely accessible websites and talked about extreme fantasies in chats.
There were no attacks on children or young people and none were planned, despite the extreme comments in chats. It all took place in a parallel digital world.
I sent these pictures even though I know what unspeakable suffering towards kids in each of these files there is. I leave a wound that will never heal.
I accept the punishment and I ask for forgiveness from the victims of sexual violence. I will have to live with this guilt as part of society for the rest of my life.
Metzelder played for major clubs such as Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Schalke 04 in a career spanning 15 years.
He made 47 appearances for Germany, receiving runners'-up medals at both the 2002 World Cup and 2008 European Championships.
The former centre-back retired hung up his boots in 2014 and since 2006, he has run a foundation in his own name to support socially disadvantaged children across Germany.
Metzelder was president of his boyhood club TuS Haltern until stepping down in 2019 when the allegations came to light.