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Diego’s ready for the long goodbye

Diego Sztejman’s children Havana, Luca, Rocky, Enzo and Mateo (front) will help him lop off his long locks later this month.

Diego Sztejman has always taken good care of his hair.

In fact, his long, thick and dark black plait - which also highlights his South American heritage - has been his trademark for most of his life.

So when he suddenly developed alopecia ten years ago, he went through a stage of mourning.

But as suddenly as his hair disappeared, it miraculously started coming back two years later.

Eight years later, it measures 1m from root to tip when brushed out.

And now Diego is giving it all up voluntarily, to provide support to people undergoing treatment for blood cancers.

He will take part in the World’s Greatest Shave on June 30, sectioning his hair in to as many plaits to donate for wigs as he can.

The Deniliquin & District Soccer Association coach has decided to shave after the regular Thursday night training at Rotary Park.

Money collected as part of the fundraiser will be donated to the Leukaemia Foundation to help with research and support services.

Diego said his own experience with hair loss inspired him to take part in the shave, but said meeting the Burn family - Phil and Jo and their sons Daniel and Mitchell - also contributed to his decision.

Daniel was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in 2015 at the age of two, and the whole Burn family took part in the World’s Greatest Shave last month as a way of giving back to the foundations that supported them.

“Daniel and Mitch train with me, and when they showed up at soccer with shaved heads I thought something was wrong,” Diego said.

“Then I read about their shave in the Pastoral Times and understood.

“I always get comments about the length of my hair, and I thought shaving it would be a good way to lead by example.

“It is easy to donate $5 or $10, but taking a greater part allows me to show my children and those I coach that it is good to be proactive.

“And now I have a choice (to lose my hair), which is always better than having no choice.”

Diego said he knows what it is like to look in the mirror and see someone completely different staring back at you.

His main hope is to give those going through cancer treatment, or those with alopecia, a boost of confidence with a wig made from his hair.

“If my hair can help other kids, or anyone with cancer or alopecia, that’s a good thing.

“It’s more about confidence than anything.

“I looked very different when I was bald, and wore a hat for two years.

“People say you should own it, but that can be very hard - especially for young people or women.”

Diego has promised Mitchell Burn he can be the first to take a chunk of his hair off on June 30, and he will be encouraging his own children and other soccer club members to get involved too.

“It’s an opportunity to break down those dynamics between coach and kids - so we can be on the same level,” Diego said.

Diego and his family - wife Chloe and their five children - made a snap decision to move from Melbourne to Deniliquin at the start of this year.

“The kids are all really excited for him to be shaving for a cure, and it’s been a great opportunity to teach them about the charity and what happens when people have cancer too,” Chloe said.

Diego has so far raised $2,265. To help him raise more, go to worldsgreatestshave.com/donate and search for ‘Diego Sztejman’.