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Bulgaria Soccer Fined, Ordered To Play Next Match In Empty Stadium After Racism Row

Bulgaria's game against England was halted twice due to abuse from sections occupied by supporters of the Bulgarian team, including monkey chants and apparent Nazi salutes.

SOFIA -- Bulgaria's soccer federation has been fined 75,000 euros ($83,300) and ordered to play its next home game in an empty stadium after racist abuse by supporters marred a recent European Championship qualifying match against England.

UEFA also ruled on October 29 that Bulgaria must play a second match behind closed doors, but it suspended that punishment for a two-year "probationary period."

Bulgaria must also display a banner with the words "No to racism" at its next two home games, European soccer's ruling body ruled.

The Bulgarian Football Union was fined an additional 10,000 euros ($11,100) for "causing a disturbance during a national anthem" prior to the start of the match in question at Sofia’s Vasil Levski Stadium on October 14.

The English Football Association was fined 5,000 euros ($5,600) for the same offense at the match, which England won 6-0.

The game was halted twice in the first half due to abuse from sections occupied by supporters of the Bulgarian team, including monkey chants and apparent Nazi salutes directed at England’s black players.

Bulgaria is scheduled to play its next and final Euro 2020 qualifier at home against the Czech Republic on November 17. The team is without a win in seven Euro 2020 qualifiers following four losses and three draws.

Bulgaria's coach Krasimir Balakov and the country's soccer federation chief, Borislav Mihaylov, both resigned following the racism row, which was condemned by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and his British counterpart, Boris Johnson.

Balakov initially said he hadn't heard any racist abuse during the game, but he later apologized to the England team.

The Bulgarian racism row is not an isolated incident in Europe, and other teams have faced similar penalties in recent years.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has blamed the "rise of nationalism" across the continent for the "unacceptable behavior" of fans who racially abuse players.

"UEFA is committed to doing everything it can to eliminate this disease from football. We cannot afford to be content with this; we must always strive to strengthen our resolve," he said.

With reporting by dpa, AFP, CNN, and AP