Rafael Nadal received the Community of Madrid’s highest honour, the Grand Cross of the Order of Dos de Mayo, on Thursday. At an event held at the Real Casa de Correos (headquarters of the regional government), the Mallorcan was bestowed with the award that recognises people and institutions whose exemplary behaviour has stood out in their service to the citizenry.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion was emotional at the recognition he received in the Spanish capital. In a season that was defined by the far-reaching COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused 45,000 deaths in Spain, Nadal wanted to send a message of affection in support of the people.
“First of all, I would like to remember the victims of this terrible pandemic, which we are going through, and all their families. I think it affects us all in one way or another, but above all those that have lost loved ones,” Nadal highlighted in his speech. “Thank you to all the health workers, particularly in Madrid, a community that was severely affected in the first wave. And also thank you to the forces and State security organisations. I’m convinced that Spain will do what it has always been able to do; to come through tough and difficult circumstances. This time will be no exception.”
The Spaniard played a very active role in charity work during the season. Together with basketball player Pau Gasol, he launched the #NuestraMejorVictoria campaign (“Our Best Victory”) to encourage donations from Spanish sport for the fight against COVID-19. In an initiative that formed part of the #CruzRojaResponde project (“Red Cross Responds”), over 14 million euros were raised to help citizens in need amid the emergency health crisis.
“Thank you for this recognition, it is a true honour,” Nadal said. “I’d like to thank and share this distinction with the citizens of the Community of Madrid, a place that feels very close to my heart and where I always receive special affection. I’ve enjoyed unforgettable moments, both personal and professional. We all owe a lot to this community, because it has always been there for us.
“I hope that what we are going through now will soon be but a memory and we can go back to sharing and enjoying the things that make us happy soon. Hopefully this will be over as soon as possible. You’ve all made this an unforgettable day for me.”
Regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso presented the World No. 2 with the medal and she had a few words of recognition on a very special day.
“We bestow you with this highest of honours in recognition of your colossal sporting achievements, but also your extraordinary virtues as a person,” said Díaz Ayuso. “You are the best Spanish sportsman of all time, but also a man of great values; determination, perseverance, discipline, sacrifice, respect for the opponent and humility. You have never lost your humanity. You are capable of uniting all Spaniards around you, millions of them have celebrated and shed tears with you under the Spanish flag.
“Thank you for associating us with pride and talent, thanks to you we know that we are a great nation capable of producing extraordinary men and women. Thank you Rafa. In Madrid and in the rest of Spain, we love you.”