Former Manchester United defender Patrice Evra says he was sexually assaulted by a school teacher as a teenager.
Evra, 40, spoke openly in an interview with The Times newspaper before the release of his new book.
He explained why he has never spoken out about it until now.
“When I first did the book, I didn’t tell the whole story because I was still ashamed and scared about what people will think,” Evra said.
“Now I want to say it because I don’t want kids to be in my situation and they are ashamed of themselves, thinking they are not brave because it’s not about being brave, it’s about being mentally ready to talk about it.
“So I just want to make sure kids out there have the courage and do not blame themselves, because I always blamed myself.
“I’m not shy to say I felt like a coward for many years because I never speak up. It was something heavy in my chest. But I don’t do it for me, I do it for other children.”
Evra, who grew up in Les Ulis near Paris, says the abuse took place in the teacher’s house, where he stayed in order to reduce commuting time between his home and school.
He only told his mother two weeks ago, and says he defied her pleas not to discuss what happened in his book.
“Only now when I am 40 years old do I tell her,” he said. “It was a big shock for her. A lot of anger. She said she was sorry. She said, ‘You must not put it in your book, it’s private Patrice’.
“But that’s when I say, ‘Mum, it’s not about me, it’s about other kids’, then she says OK, she understands.”
Evra, who won five Premier League titles during eight years at Old Trafford, says he denied the abuse when he received a call from the police about it while playing for Monaco aged 24.
“Living with that was one of my biggest regrets because I could have helped so many people,” he added.