German former professional footballer Christoph Metzelder went on trial Thursday accused of sharing child pornography with women online in a case that stunned the sport.
The former Germany and Real Madrid defender, 40, is in the dock at a district court in the western city of Duesseldorf accused of possessing and distributing illicit images of minors.
Prosecutors say the 2002 World Cup finalist passed on 29 pornographic files to three women via WhatsApp.
According to the case against him, 297 files with sexual content featuring children or teens were found on Metzelder's mobile phone.
A lawyer for the former player said last week he would "face up" to the charges in court.
"He knows what he has done," Metzelder's attorney Ulrich Sommer told broadcaster RTL.
"He also knows that it can be called a mistake and he knows that he has to face up to his responsibilities."
Metzelder had been working as a pundit for Sky Sports Germany until he came under investigation in September 2019.
Sommer said Metzelder is in therapy, to help him address "certain issues such as sexuality or dealing with women in certain situations".
The lawyer 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.
The allegations against him came to light in September 2019 but he has not personally addressed them in public.
The trial is scheduled to run until May 10. If convicted, Metzelder could face a fine or a prison term of three months to five years.