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UEFA punishes Ludogorets, Steaua for fan racism at Champions League playoff match

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NYON, Switzerland - Ludogorets Razgrad must play Real Madrid in its Champions League group-stage home debut with a stadium section closed because of fans' racist behaviour.

UEFA announced its disciplinary panel sanctions on Friday after incidents when Ludogorets eliminated Steaua Bucharest in a playoff last week.

The Bulgarian champion's victory in a penalty shootout, with defender Cosmin Moti saving twice as emergency goalkeeper, was the feelgood story of the round.

Steaua was also punished for fans' racist behaviour, for the second time this season, and must play a Europa League match in an empty stadium.

UEFA did not specify details of the racist incidents.

However, the fans' discrimination monitoring group Fare said it reported to UEFA that Ludogorets fans sang about Roma people, also known as gypsies.

"A group of Ludogorets fans chanted anti-Roma slogans targeting Steaua supporters," Fare said. "Steaua fans displayed a number of far-right and neo-Nazi symbols and directed discriminatory chants at Ludogorets fans."

Ludogorets is making its first appearance in the Champions League groups in a group which also has Liverpool and Basel. It hosts Madrid on Oct. 1 in the National Stadium, Sofia, because its own ground does not meet UEFA standards.

UEFA fined Ludogorets 16,000 euros ($20,700) for offences including fans invading the field and the team receiving at least five yellow cards.

UEFA ordered Steaua to play Aalborg on Sept. 18 without fans in the National Arena, Bucharest.

Steaua was fined 64,500 euros ($83,600) for the racism and other offences, including fans lighting fireworks, throwing missiles, and five players being booked.

Last month, the 1986 European Cup winner was forced to close two stadium sections in a third qualifying round, second-leg match. It followed racist incidents in the previous round against Stromsgodset of Norway.

UEFA operates an escalating scale of sanctions with further racism incidents provoking full stadium closures, leading to possible disqualification from competitions.

"All forms of racist behaviour are considered serious offences against the disciplinary regulations and are punished with the most severe sanctions," UEFA said.

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