Puyat, former Fiba president, dies at 79

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GONZALO “Lito” Puyat II, the first Filipino to hold the highest post of a world sports body as president of the International Basketball Federation (Fiba), died of apparent cardiac arrest yesterday. He was 79.

According to friends, Puyat complained of asthma on Sunday and received a massage before he was brought to the Makati Medical Center yesterday.

Former Games and Amusements Board chair Dominador Cepeda, a close friend, said Puyat suffered a heart attack.

Puyat, who carved his place in world caging as president of the Basketball Association of the Philippines, served as Fiba president from 1976 to 1984. His term was highlighted by the country’s hosting of the 1978 World Basketball Championship won by Yugoslavia at Araneta Coliseum.

Moying Martelino, who served under Puyat’s BAP as secretary general, said news of his friend’s death left him stunned.

“I couldn’t help but feel sad,” said Martelino, who went on to become the secretary general of the Asian Basketball Confederation, the forerunner of Fiba Asia. “He’s my buddy. We go a long, long way.”

Puyat spent the holidays in Dubai with his daughter Patria, a hotelier at InterContinental Hotels Group Dubai Festival City.

From 1984 to 1986, Puyat served as assemblyman in the Batasang Pambansa. He was also a two-time Manila councilor. A businessman, politician and sports advocate, Puyat was the chair of Manila Bankers Life Insurance Corp. and director for Abacus Consolidated Resources and Holdings.

By taking over as Fiba head, Puyat more than redeemed himself from criticisms over his famous falling out in 1975 with officials of the Manila Inter-Commercial Athletic Association (Micaa), which owned the teams where the national players came from.

The row resulted in the Micaa forming the Philippine Basketball Association, which became Asia’s first play-for-pay league.

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