The Zebre back-rower was honoured for his work driving an ambulance

Italy star Maxime Mbanda made ‘Knight of the Republic’

Italy back-row Maxime Mbanda received one of the country’s highest awards on Tuesday, in recognition for his efforts as a front-line volunteer at the height of the coronavirus crisis.

However, the flanker missed out on the opportunity to receive the Cavalieri al merito della Repubblica (Knights of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic) medal and certificate in person, from President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinal Palace. Instead the awards were delivered to the Azzurri‘s Rome hotel.

The 20-cap flanker and his Italy team-mates were in a Covid-19 isolation bubble at the time of the award. Had Mbanda left the team bubble, he could have jeopardised his chance to face Ireland in Dublin or England the week after, both in the Six Nations.

Mbanda has been honoured for his work as an ambulance driver with the Croce Gialla (Yellow Cross) in Parma in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak.

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È stata una scelta difficile e sofferta quella di non partecipare ieri alla Cerimonia al Quirinale, ma grazie alla mia famiglia ed i miei compagni di @italrugby sono riuscito a dare una priorità alla mia vita ora: quella di lottare per avere una possibilità di indossare ancora una volta la maglia azzurra come ho sempre sognato sin da bambino. La cosa che mi spiace di più è quella di non aver potuto indossare questa divisa alla cerimonia: perché è alla divisa che va questa onorificenza. Una divisa come questa è indossata da anni da tantissime persone in altrettante realtà come @seirs.crocegialla.parma che cercano di aiutare le proprie comunità giorno dopo giorno. Io sono stato preso simbolicamente ma senza queste altre persone che volontariamente hanno costruito una vera e propria base, il mio lavoro di questo periodo non ci sarebbe potuto essere. Quindi questa medaglia e questa onorificenza le dedico a tutti i volontari d’Italia e del Mondo. Grazie! 🙏🏾

A post shared by Maxime Mbandà (@maxime.mbanda) on

Mbanda, 27, said of the award: “I don’t have adequate words to express the emotion I felt when I received the medal and the diploma of Knight of the Republic.

“A sensation never experienced before, which I want to share first of all with my family, with all the colleagues of the Yellow Cross and with all those who put themselves at the service of the country in this difficult period.

“This honour represents an important recognition for the commitment made by all of them during the lockdown and my commitment is to continue alongside the Parma Yellow Cross as well as my sporting commitments.”

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