Italy flanker Mbanda receives 'Knight of Merit' award for Covid-19 volunteer work

Rome (AFP) –


Italy back-rower Maxime Mbanda on Tuesday received one of the country's highest awards for his efforts as a front-line volunteer in the fight against the coronavirus.

But the flanker's 'Cavalieri al merito della Repubblica', or 'Knights of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic' medal and certificate were delivered to the Rome hotel where the 28-year-old is in a Covid-19 isolation "bubble" with his team-mates.

Receiving the award in person from President Sergio Mattarella in the Quirinal Palace on Tuesday could have excluded him from travelling to Ireland in the Six Nations on Saturday, and a home tie against England the following week.

"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," said 20-times capped Mbanda.

Mbanda was honoured for his endeavours during the early days of the pandemic this spring when he volunteered as an ambulance driver with the "Croce Gialla" (Yellow Cross) in Parma.

"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," the Zebre forward added.

"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."

The honour is awarded to those who have distinguished themselves in the service to the community, including doctors and nurses during the virus outbreak which has killed over 36,000 people in Italy.

Mbanda, born in Rome to a Congolese father and Italian mother, worked in the region of Emilia-Romagna, one of the areas most affected by the coronavirus.